Oh, Owly, how I love you.
I was sent some review copies of OWLY graphic novels, and I am only too happy to sing their praises here. I can't believe I never have before. See, Owly (and his best friend, Wormy) and I are old friends now. I have an Owly shirt. I have a stuffed Owly (with stuffed Wormy on his head). And, thanks to the review copies, I now know there are more books than the two I had, and got to read them as well as revisit the first couple.
OWLY is a wordless graphic novel series that I would shelve in my elementary books if I had to be pinned down on a place, but obviously soft hearts of all ages will love it if I am sitting here telling you that I do (and I am closer to 40 than I'd like to discuss). It's the story of Owly, a little owl, and his best friend Wormy, and their adventures in their forest home. (I'm going to completely spoil the first novella for you, so you can see what sort of stories they are, but this isn't HARRY POTTER - knowing the plot isn't going to ruin your enjoyment.)
When we first meet Owly in THE WAY HOME, he is looking for a friend. He startles some birds into spilling their bowl of seeds and flying away, and with a sigh, he refills the bowl for them. When they don't return, he goes to investigate a sound he hears. Finding some fireflies in a jar, he releases them, but they too fly away. Then a hard rainstorm begins, and he finds a little worm clinging to some grass in the middle of a puddle, unable to swim to safety. Owly takes him home, tucks him into bed, and nurses him back to health.
When Wormy (for it is he) wakes up, he is first afraid of Owly, but quickly taken in by the owl's kindness. Owly wants Wormy to stay with him, but Wormy explains that he was separated from his family by the storm. Owly consults a map so he can take Wormy home. With the eventual help of the fireflies Owly set free early on, they find Wormy's family. Owly wins them over despite their initial fear, and after sharing a hearty meal, sadly sets off for home alone. But soon he hears a familiar voice, and turns to see Wormy behind him, all of his possessions tied up in a sack on a stick. Wormy's parents are waving goodbye, giving their son their blessing to strike out on his own. Owly helps Wormy up to sit on his head, and the friends (and now roommates) head for home together.
Runton's expressive art gives life to not only Owly and Wormy and their friends, but also to their thoughts and dialogue through the use of clever rebus-like thought and dialogue bubbles. If Owly thinks Wormy would be happy if he went outside, for instance, you'll get one bubble on one side of Owly's head with a picture of an open door, an arrow pointing outside, and an exclamation point; on the other side of his head will be a bubble containing a picture of a happy little sun, an equal sign, and a picture of Wormy with a big smile on his face. The only words that appear in these novels are sound words (like SPLASH if someone steps in a puddle) and words on anything that Owly & Co. might be reading, like books or letters.
You don't need words to follow the stories, and you don't need words to fall in love with the characters. Owly is, for lack of a better description, darn cute. I mean, really, really darn cute. Wormy might be even cuter. The birds are cute. The bunnies are cute. It's ALL cute, but not in a rot your teeth kind of way. Owly is a true friend to those he knows - loyal and loving, encouraging and warm. He's the kind of character you want your kids to fall in love with. Along the way, you'll fall in love with him too.
I can't wait to curl up with Molly and an Owly book, piecing the story together by looking at this art that I love, listening to her tell me what Owly and Wormy are doing next. Even though I'll have figured it out first, it'll be even sweeter sharing it with her. Share Owly with someone you love, or with anyone who could use a simple, lovely friendship series.
Order OWLY from an independent bookstore! (Link goes to book 1.)