Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Wesley the Owl (copy)

Two nights ago I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed when I heard a loud Whoo-Whoo-Whoo. The windows of our house were closed tight yet the noise felt like it was behind my back. I called hubby into the bathroom to confirm my hearing.

Of course, it was an owl in one of our willow oaks communicating with its mate. Somewhere in the darkness, possibly a block away, we heard the return hoot of another owl. We have barn owls in our neighborhood, but these were commuters who only stopped by for 20 minutes. What fascinating creatures!

Born February 10, 1985, Wesley the owl suffered nerve damage in one of his wings. Meaning, this barn owl would never be able to fly for long periods of time before succumbing to exhaustion. Wesley would never be able to hunt for himself and without a mother he would surely die.

Biologists at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) considered Wesley’s lot a great chance for someone to raise him as a pet. Enter Stacey O’Brien. New to the Caltech staff having only worked a year as a biologist, her superior called her to his office four days later to discuss the owlet’s fate. She enthusiastically agreed to take on the possible 15 years of research this little ball of down might provide.


Stacey considered this her opportunity to study a single animal on a 24/7 schedule just like her heroine, Jane Goodall. Little did she know Wesley Valentine, having entered her life that Valentine’s Day, would change it dramatically.

For the first six months he was taken everywhere Stacey went. He needed her warmth to survive. Thus, she wrapped him in blankets like a newborn when going to work or on little errands. One such errand to the grocery shocked an over-eager shopper when they pulled back the covers and asked, “Is that a dinosaur?!?”

Stacey is seen as a mother figure in the first couple of years, but as Wesley turns 3 she becomes his mate. Owls mate for life and Wesley is no exception.

For this Halloween season pick up Stacey O’Brien’s Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl. It is full of photos as Wesley goes from newborn to the ripe old age of nineteen.
Another excellent review of Wesley can be found at Sam's Book Chase.

22 comments:

Sam Houston said...

Wow...I have to find this book. It sounds fascinating and it describes something I never imagined could be successfully pulled off by anyone. Thanks for the review.

Jeane said...

I am putting this on my TBR right now. I read a little book about an owl living in a naturalist's home some years ago; it would be great to read another, more in-depth account. (I can't remember how old that owl lived).

____Maggie said...

I learned so much, Sam! Did you know an owl's ears are uneven so they can triangulate prey? They also have the ability to filter noise. They can hear a mouse's heartbeat!

The author throws an annoying gross factor in the first part, but I feel she was talked into the trick; otherwise, she has a nice talk to the reader approach. I feel teens will love her! :)

Enjoy, Sam!

____Maggie said...

Can you imagine 19 years, Jeane? That's longer than most marriages! Okay, bad joke, but Wesley lived 4 years longer than most barn owls.

We have a couple of barn owls. They don't hoot like other owls, but click. Wesley dosn't click, but he does communicate with Stacey. Fascinating! :D

Lori Thornton said...

I saw that book when going through the lease book list earlier this month. I came very close to ordering it for the library, but I opted for Dewey instead. I did decide that it would be a good read sometime though. Your review confirmed that for me!

____Maggie said...

Ah, thanks Lori. I finished reading it tonight, and boy they don't make enough tissues! I deliberately chose not to read the ending before writing this booktalk. I knew he was going to die and I didn't want it to effect my normal jovial self. Even though I became emotional, I still recommend this whole-heartedly. I experienced belly laughs, gagged, and wept all from one book! :D

Mary said...

Maggie, this sounds like such a good book. Thanks for the review. Not sure I would've heard of it otherwise!

____Maggie said...

Mary - Like I was telling Sam, it opens with a gross factor unneccessary for real readers, but probably a must for teens; otherwise, it is a delight. When you read it you will pick up on the forced gross that could have easily been worked into the body of the story. After reading the ending where she talks about going to a writer's workshop, does the format make sense. ;D

I look forward to you finding the way of the owl. :)

sage said...

sounds like a wonderful book. What is the age range for the reader? Is it appropriate for 5th graders?

txmommy said...

owls are my favorite birds! How fun, I am going to go look for this book tonight!!

Tiffany Norris said...

I am so scared of all birds...except owls. They fascinate me, and this one sounds incredible! Going on my TBR......now. :)

____Maggie said...

She can read it, Sage. There is one bad word in the whole book and it is blanked out! Wesley mates with the author, though. This might just blow over your neice's head. And, I would say the reading level is upper-middle/high school. She writes as if talking to the reader, plus, lots of gross!

____Maggie said...

It's brand new, TX Mommy! Good Luck! :)

You will fall in love, Tiffany! :)

txmommy said...

I'm half way through the book now and it is so fun. I have been reading parts out loud to my family and they are enjoying it too, thanks for the recommedation!!

____Maggie said...

Aren't you learning stuff too, TX Mommy! I'm glad you are enjoying Wesley. The mating thing is a little weird, but the whole experience had to be (juvenile word here) awesome! :)

April said...

This sounds like such an interesting book. It is the first that I have seen or heard of it, but will keep my eye out for it! Great review!

____Maggie said...

You will love it April! The photographs are worth the price of the book alone! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi! I finally went and Googled "Wesley the Owl". I've been so busy I almost haven't had time to even keep up w/ my email but this week, things finally slowed down. I found your lovely review and it's amazing that you picked up on the fact that I was, indeed, talked into opening the book with the obvious mouse/gross factor. I fought it for awhile but it was deemed necessary to open the book with something that would catch people's attention. I thought that people/readers are much more intelligent than agents and other such types give them credit for! Sheesh! But in the end, I left it that way because "everyone" agreed that I should have this bang up opening. I argued that readers, including myself, KNOW when writers are doing this! So I was right! You DO KNOW!
And it's not as if the book didn't have enough oddities already, right? hee hee.

The mating thing - there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Since then I've been hearing from many owl keepers w/ unreleasable birds who are also being mated with. The owl will fight with you if you try to push him off, unfortunately.

But it points to another, more interesting possibility, which is that animals simply are not prejudiced. It doesn't matter to them WHAT you look like if you have a good heart toward them. If they learn to trust you, they consider you to be of their own species and they ignore the fact that you look very strange for an owl, for a horse, or whatever they think you are.
Wesley didn't actually THINK I WAS an owl, but he accepted me AS IF I was. He definitely knew what other barn owls were, when they visited our window out of curiosity.

Thanks for the review and for your many kind comments! It's a joy to be able to share this experience with so many people!

I'm working on the next book, now, called "The Way of the Owl" for now...

Sincerely,
Stacey O'Brien

Anonymous said...

PS: More from Stacey O'Brien:
My mother is from Memphis, Tenn. and I'm trying to work out a way to go to Memphis and Jackson, Tenn. to do some kind of book event, since this area is dear to my heart and childhood! My grandmother is from Mississippi so I've been there, too, and found the people to be genuine and friendly - MUCH nicer to strangers than most people are in California!

I do have a website, www.wesleytheowl.com, and a blog which you can read through the website.

Maggie, I love your blog! I love your book recommendations, and not just for the obvious reason that you liked mine. ;-)

Sincerely,
Stacey

____Maggie said...

Wow! An author's visit! Thank you for stopping by!

In our area we have a line of bookstores who do big author tours. Starting in Memphis is Burke's Books (901.278.7484) then moving south to Oxford, MS's Square Books (800.648.4001) then on to Jackson, MS for Lemuria(800.366.7619).

This article appeared in five different newspapers in MS, and I have had a lot of comments from readers. One stopped me after church to tell me she heard an owl in her yard that Saturday night. This book is going to be bigger than big, and congratulations on a book well done! :D

____Maggie said...

PS - You are more than welcome to stay with us during your southern tour! We live in a little town between Memphis and Oxford called Como, MS. Good luck with the next book!

Anonymous said...

i love that cute little owl