Lois Lowry comes to the Empire

In Lois Lowry's children's book, "Crow Call," a young girl spends a day in the woods with her father, just home from World War II. They hunt crows, and she wears a flannel hunter's shirt that her father bought for her, even though it's way too bi...

Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry

In Lois Lowry's children's book, "Crow Call," a young girl spends a day in the woods with her father, just home from World War II. They hunt crows, and she wears a flannel hunter's shirt that her father bought for her, even though it's way too big for her, because he saw how much she wanted it.

Nothing much happens in the story, action-wise. They don't even shoot any crows. The book is about two people who love each other, who have spent a long time parted and who are getting to know each other all over again.

"There's something, I think, about all good books, probably all that I've read, that has to do with reconciliation, with coming together, with something being unfinished," Lowry said in a telephone interview. "And by the end of the story, it will be stitched up together. The characters will be reconciled, and their differences will be sorted out. And that's what this book is about, I think."

"Crow Call" was chosen as the children's book for The Big Read in Grand Forks, a series of events through Nov. 14 focused on encouraging the culture of reading. At 7 tonight, Lowry will speak at the Empire Arts Center as part of The Big Read. The event is free and open to the public.

The award-winning author has written more than 30 books, including two winners of the Newbery Medal, "Number the Stars" and "The Giver." Many of her books are on reading lists for school-aged children and are considered modern classics. Lowry lives in Cambridge, Mass., and Maine, and travels the country to discuss her books and the art of writing.


"Crow Call," published in 2009 by Scholastic Press, is beautifully illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. In it, 8-year-old Lizzie and her ex-soldier father set out to hunt crows that are eating the farmer's crops. Lizzie is entrusted with the crow call, a whistle to lure the birds. She's dressed in a man's plaid wool shirt that she had admired in a store window and that her father bought for her even though it comes down to her knees.

The details of the story are true. They happened to Lowry and her father in 1945. On the last page of "Crow Call," there's a photo of Lois as a child wearing the too-large men's plaid shirt she describes in the book.

"For some children, this book may be too quiet and lacking a fast-moving plot," Lowry said. "That's not what it's about. But for the child that gets it, it seems to be a very special book."

A School Library Journal review noted the book's setting, of the father who never raises his rifle because he's just enjoying his daughter and her wonder at the multitude of birds who have heeded her call.

"Remarkable, atmospheric illustrations reveal the subdued, cool autumn colors of crunchy dried grass, softly hued sky, and dark leafless trees," wrote Maryann H. Owen of the Racine (Wis.) Public Library. "The memory of a treasured day spent with a special person will resonate with readers everywhere."

Lois Lowry knows what it means to be part of a military family. Her father was a career military office, an Army dentist. At 19, she married a Naval officer, a union that lasted 20 years and produced four children. In 1995, her son, Maj. Grey Lowry, 36, a U.S. Air Force pilot who flew an F-15, died in a crash caused by an improperly serviced aircraft.

Lowry was born in Honolulu in 1937. After Pearl Harbor, her mother took her children and moved back to her parents' home in Pennsylvania. Although there was an Army post there, Lowry said, she, her mother and her siblings lived with her grandparents, surrounded by lots of extended family. Later, she lived in Japan until the Korean War began and the family was once again separated from its father.

"For every family in the military, there's the constant 'now you see them, now you don't,'" Lowry said.


The need for reconnection is an age-old story in the lives of soldiers and their loved ones, but it's not limited to military families, she said. She was fortunate in that she had a wonderful father who came from a Norwegian family in Wisconsin, not known for effusive emotions, but yet one with whom she remembers one-on-one conversations that were deep and affectionate.

Lowry said the story of "Crow Call" was first published in 1975, then rediscovered by a book editor who asked her to rewrite it as a children's book.

In her online biography, Lowry writes about her books and how all of them deal with the same general theme: the importance of human connections.

"I am a grandmother now," she writes. "For my own grandchildren -- and for all those of their generation, I try, through writing, to convey my passionate awareness that we live intertwined on this planet and that our future depends upon our caring more, and doing more, for one another."

If you go

- What: A presentation by Lois Lowry, author of the children's book "Crow Call."

- When and where: 7 tonight, Empire Arts Center.

- Admission: Free.


Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to .

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