Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton

Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton

Runton, Andy. Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer. Top Shelf Productions, 2004 (reprint). ISBN 978-1891830624 160 pp. $10.99


This nearly wordless graphic novel is about the kindliest of raptors, Owly. In The Way Home he rescues a worm and nurtures him through the winter season, and in The Bittersweet Summer he and his wormy friend await the return of their migrating hummingbird pals. 

The portrayal of a lonely owl with an unexpected friends is reminiscent of my favorite pacifist stories when I was little, A Toad for Tuesday and the Tawny Scrawny Lion, both about predators making friends with their prey.

The Way Home has a subtle message about intolerance – when the worm is returned to his family they are initially terrified and upset that he has brought an owl to their home, but he assures him the bird is a friend, and they slowly accept him.

The Bittersweet Summer is about sacrificing what you would like so someone else can get what they need (librarians will love that Owly consults books to learn what hummingbirds eat). Owly and the worm would love the hummingbirds to stay but as the weather turns colder, the birds food supply dwindles and they can’t stay warm, and must fly south, and Owly must hope for their return in the spring.

The story and accompanying black and white illustrations are absolutely, utterly charming. The rounded shapes enforce Owly’s soft and gentle demeanor. Runton conveys emotion vividly with just a few expressive strokes of his pen. Text is used sparingly and symbolically, with punctuation for emphasis and a few sound effects spelled out. This is truly a book for all ages, perfect for dialogic reading with younger children.

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