Thursday, October 1, 2020


From the desk of Suzy Leopold

Do you know some names of owls indigenous to your state? My state of Illinois is home to eight owls.

  • Barn Owl
  • Bared Eagle Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
  • Great-Horned Owl
  • Long-eared Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
  • Northern Owl
  • Snow Owl
Most of the species that live in my state are mentioned in today’s featured picture book on the GROG Blog.


written by Annette Whipple made its debut yesterday!

This informational picture book is published by Reycraft Books, 2020. The thirty-two page book is written for ages 6-10.

Now for another question . . . Do you know how many owl species there are in the world? There are 250 Strigiformes that belong to this order of birds.

The information presented in this book uses the Q & A format.

Check out this amazing two page spread:

Note the question, What’s For Dinner? 

The answer follows to tell the reader what this predator hunts for. A photograph is included to show small mammals on a dinner plate! The outstanding photography is sure to amaze the reader and encourage more curiosity about these majestic birds of prey.

Here is another spread:
Once again an answer follows the question, Whooo’s There?

This time focus on the sparky, open-eyed owl. Several animated owls are included throughout the book. These illustrated owls share answers to questions, too. This feature is included on each spread along with the superb photography.

If you're not familiar with the anatomy of an owl, page 29 includes information about eyes, ears, ear tufts, feathers, talons, and facial disks. 

One section explains how the reader can help owls and states:

"You can help owls and other wildlife by letting nature be wild."

The back matter includes a list of seven words in a glossary and several links to helpful websites.

Thank you, Annette, for sharing your love of owls and for encouraging readers to explore the world around them through your many nonfiction picture books.

This book is not only a hoot to read, the reader will acquire new facts about this interesting bird. 

Now I know! Next time I hear a screech, a whistle, a trill or a bark, I will see if I can identify the owl.

I give this book a total of five stars out of five.
And now Annette shares a craft of writing tip about first lines and how they matter.

From the desk of Annette Whipple

When I was revising Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls, I knew I loved most of the text. It’s a picture book in question-and-answer format. Every page spread in the informational book has one Q & A as well as a related sidebar. The sidebars bring humor to the text. 

As I revised, I suspected my original first lines just wouldn’t hook a reader. But I felt a bit stuck.

“Owls are easy to recognize. They have big heads, flat faces, and hooked beaks. They’re known for their hunting skills. But do you really know these birds?” 

While at a Highlights conference, the instructor wanted us to focus on first lines. I knew it was an issue with my manuscript, so I was thrilled to do so.


I scribbled and scratched until our instructor asked us to stop. Then, like in many workshops, he asked if anyone wanted to share what they wrote. Without missing a beat, I raised my hand with a grin.


First, I read aloud the original introduction/nonhook.

Then, I shared my new introduction which became…

“The unforgettable call. The glowing eyes. The fierce beak. You recognize an owl when you hear or see one, but do really know these birds?”

See the spread above Whooo’s There? in the ARC [Advanced Reading Copy].

(They actually cheered! I was shocked at that. Writing friends matter.


Oh, the Highlights faculty member who led that session? He works with Reycraft Books, the publisher of Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls. And next year Reycraft will continue The Truth About series. The next two books are about dogs and spiders! They are all in Q&A format and highly visual with tons of photographs. Each page spread includes an illustrated sidebar.

Now, anytime I know something isn’t working, I sit down with focus. I set the timer and don’t change tasks (or tabs) until the timer goes off. 


First lines matter. Make your manuscript more enticing—and more sellable—by dedicating time to them. That’s the first lesson of this blog post. The second? Attend conferences and workshops like SCBWI and Highlights—even online. You’ll be challenged to try new techniques.

Thanks so much for having me here today. We know first lines are important, but sometimes it takes some extra effort and time to really hook the reader.

For more information about Annette click on these links:

Check out this previous GROG Blog post from August 2020.

Annette Whipple, Children’s Author, Inspiring Curiosity and Wonder

Sign up for Annette’s Monthly Newsletter

A Writing course: Kid Lit Creatives 

Use this code AWBLOG2020 for a 10% discount.





Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder in young readers while exciting them about science and history. She’s the author of eight fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press), Whooo Knew? The Truth about Owls (Reycraft Books), and The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press). Annette is a fact-loving, chocolate chip cookie-baking children’s nonfiction author from Pennsylvania. Get to know her and learn about her presentations at


  1. Thanks so much for the Whooo Knew review and sharing my writing tip about first lines today!

    1. My pleasure, Annette.

      Thank you for writing books that encourage readers to discover and learn.

      The tip for first lines is sure to support writers.

  2. Woo-hoo! Congratulations, Annette. Can't wait to get my hands on this book. And yes, that's a great opening!!

    1. As you know, Christy, opening lines must begin with a hook to encourage the page turns as the reader discovers more.

  3. Congrats! I love learning about owls. They are fascinating, and sort of scary! Best wishes!

    1. Owls are intriguing.

      Thank you, Angie, for being a GROG Blog follower.

  4. LOVE the creative approach to this book that is perfect for the classroom , whether virtual or otherwise.

    1. The amazing up-close photographs and the animated owl illustration certainly add to this book.

      Picture books will always be the best tool for teaching nonfiction facts and information—both in the classroom face-to-face or virtual learning.

      Thank you, Darlene.


  5. I'm looking forward to reading this book. I will never forget a class on owls I attended with my preschool granddaughter. The teacher, who worked at a nature center, showed us how he could call an owl. As predicted, the owl came, and the teacher rewarded it with a live mouse that he threw onto the roof of a nearby shed. We watched the owl swoop down and grab the mouse. It was a little scary, but thrilling--and unforgettable!

    1. Wow! Such a great experience for the preschoolers and you, Julie.

      Making memories with the grands is the best.

  6. cool! I love owls - listening to them every night.

    1. Enjoy the hoots, whoos, trills, screeches, and barks, Sue.

  7. Congratulations Annette! I love it when I hear an owl hoot or screech in the night sky. Thank you for sharing your first line tips!

  8. Fascinating! Thank you, Suzy and Annette, for this informative post about OWLS and writing about them! Loved it.