The Book of the Howlat
By (author) James Robertson; Illustrated by Kate Leiper
Originally written in the 1440s by Richard Holland, a Scottish cleric who was chaplain to Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray, The Buke of the Howlat is one of the great poetic gems of fifteenth-century Scots.Believing himself to be ugly, a young owl (howlat) decides to speak to the most handsome bird of all, the peacock, and ask his help so that Nature can change him. But the peacock isn’t sure this should be done – after all, Nature doesn’t usually make mistakes – and summons a council of birds to make a decision. A huge feast takes place, and Nature herself appears and orders all the birds present to give the owl one of their feathers. But the result is not what they expect. The howlat’s initial joy turns to unbearable arrogance at his new-found beauty, and drastic action must be taken …
James Robertson is one of Scotland’s most significant writers, whose novels include Joseph Black (winner of the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year 2003/2004), The Testament of Gideon Mack (longlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2006), And the Land Lay Still, and The Professor of Truth (2013). He is general editor of Black and White Publishing’s Itchy Coo imprint, which produces books in Scots for young readers. Kate Leiper is an artist and illustrator who regularly exhibits and undertakes commissions throughout the UK. She is particularly drawn to mythical and animal subjects and has previously worked on Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales and An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Mythical Creatures (both Floris).