Lois Lowry’s picture book Crow Call may be set in November, but it makes a perfect Christmas gift. Illustrated by the Russian artist Bagram Ibatoulline (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Thumbelina, among others), it follows father and daughter on a hunting expedition that takes them from home, through the woods, and back again. In the middle of those woods (and in the precise middle of the book), Lowry describes, with characteristic understatement, an encounter that transforms both adult and child. It was fascinating to me how deeply Ibatoulline understood the story, turning to photographic realism on the very page that captures the fears of the father during his time in the combat zone and the anxieties of the daughter in times of peace.
Lowry alluded to “Little Red Riding Hood” in Number the Stars, and this story too reminds me of the power of a girl, a hunter, and an encounter in the woods. The elements of the fairy tale are configured here in an entirely new way and anchored in the mode of psychological realism. The relationship between father and daughter becomes poetically emblematic, revealing the “groping toward understanding each other” of parents and children (as stated on the last page) as well as the complexities of the human condition (our conflicted relationship to nature and to men and women from other nations and cultures).