By: Peter Huggins; Illustrated by Paula G. Koz
Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen
Junebug Books, 2008
“‘Someone’s got a still close by,’ his father said, lowering his voice to a whisper and looking anxiously around for any sign of the tub and metal tubing necessary for the brewing of illegal liquor. ‘These crows have been eating the mash and we’re—’ Before he could finish, a screaming whine split the air above Aaron and his father. ‘Run,’ his father yelled.”
This brief excerpt from the book In the Company of Owls by Peter Huggins will instantly grab the attention of the reader. It is a delightful, easy to read adventurous story of courage and family loyalty. It also employs humor and wisdom. While reading this novel you can visualize life on a dairy farm from sunrise to sunset. Huggins’ descriptive metaphor such as “hugging a pillow and listening to the crack and pop of the cedar as it glowed and burned in the stone fireplace” gives a feeling of peaceful coexistence with nature. All is well at the end of the day. Unfortunately for the Cash family, their peaceful life will have frightening consequences.
In the story, young Aaron Cash and his father Nate discover an illegal still on their neighbor Morgan’s property. Morgan attempts to purchase Nate’s property, but Nate will not sell it. Then Morgan resorts to threats, vandalism, and arson. “In one motion, Morgan wheeled toward Nate and raised his shotgun to fire,” writes Huggins. “Aaron didn’t think. He didn’t consider what might happen to himself. He grabbed the barrel of his BB gun.” The decision Aaron makes at this point will affect the lives of his family.
Peter Huggins’ poetic talents abound in this novel. He puts the reader in places, not to linger, but to experience and make a connection with the characters. Paula G. Koz’s woodcut illustrations enrich and add to the vivid details of the story.
An award-winning poet and children’s author, Huggins is a professor in the English Department of Auburn University. Auburn should be proud. Dec 2008
Linda A. McQueen is the Library Media Specialist at McNeel School-Vacca Campus, Alabama Department of Youth Services, and former cooperating teacher in the Writing Our Stories program.