cover image Three Little Owls

Three Little Owls

Emanuele Luzzati, trans. from the Italian by John Yeoman, illus. by Quentin Blake. Tate (Abrams, dist.), $18.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-84976-080-5

In 2009, following an exhibition of Blake’s work at the Museo Luzzati in Genoa, Italy (which houses the work of the late Italian illustrator), Blake was asked to illustrate Luzzati’s manuscript Filastrocca di Natale. The result, translated into English here by Blake’s frequent collaborator Yeoman, is a blithe nonsense rhyme with just a hint of the Christmas setting suggested by Luzzati’s original title. The story opens on Christmas Day with three owls standing atop a wardrobe; they lay eggs, don extravagant outfits, and hook an unusual fish in a barrel: “With green wings and glasses he hasn’t the look/ Of something you’d normally find on a hook./ He’s writing some speeches (although he can’t speak)/ In languages ranging from Hindi to Greek.” The story jumps forward through the year as the owls dance on rooftops, nap, and traverse the globe before returning to deliver an enormous feast in time for the following Christmas. The wide-eyed owls take on a goofy, Marx Brothers–esque comedic air in Blake’s ever-energetic ink-and-watercolor illustrations—just right for the idiosyncratic hops and skips of Luzzati’s story. Ages 3–up. [em](Oct.) [/em]