Owly, Vol. 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton
I’m smitten with Owly! Themes of friendship and kindness, adorable illustrations and a unique use of text make this a winner.
Owly is incredibly interesting to me because it is nearly wordless. Communication between the characters takes place in speech bubbles, but is done in pictograms rather than words. The majority of text is either environmental print or onomatopoeia. Environmental print is used to describe words found on labels, logos, signs; the print that surrounds us in our daily lives. Onomatopoeia is a word that is meant to refer to a sound, such as buzz or smash or ding. There is heavy use of both exclamation points and question marks to emphasize the thinking of the characters. The second story contains captions for a scrapbook Owly has made, as well as some factual information from a book Owly is reading providing the most challenging text of the book. Despite its lack of typical writing, Owly isn’t babyish in the least. The characters are adorable, the story lines are simple and will certainly appeal to young readers, but the books will interest to readers of many ages.
Owly’s unique format also makes it an excellent tool for working with readers. Older readers who are struggling will be grateful for something that looks just like something any one in their class would like to read (because it is something anyone would like to read). Readers who are learning English will benefit from the pictures and context provided with the print. An added bonus is that Owly’s stories have an identifiable beginning, middle and end, as well as a problem and solution. These are very valuable when teaching readers about plots and the natural progression of a story. They aren’t just skills children can use when reading graphic novels, they are skills that will transfer to any books they read.
Aside from all of that teacherly talk, Owly is just plain old adorable. The illustrations will definitely appeal to kids. The stories are sweet and show how you make and keep friends. Stories about being kind and friendly? Cuddly looking animals? I am in.
Age Recommendation: I can’t actually put a lower limit on Owly. I would say developmentally, probably 1st to 2nd graders would be able to sustain the attention necessary to understand what is going on in the pictures, because you really do have to pay attention. But in terms of content, there’s nothing objectionable that would bother younger readers, so if you have a detail oriented kid who is taken with the idea of reading, even if your child isn’t quite up to decoding text, this might be worth a try. Owly would interest students up to 3rd and 4th grade easily. You may even have some luck with older readers.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – None.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – A worm is separated from his family and fears he has lost them forever (he hasn’t). A bird is captured.