Owly: Tiny Tales
by Andy Runton
Spring 2009 • Top Shelf • All ages
"One of the best comics for kids around. Period."
"Charming ... reminiscent of children’s literature in the style of Frog and Toad, or Winnie the Pooh and Piglet."
-- Publishers Weekly
Owly is a kind little owl who knows what it means to be human. Introduced to comics readers in 2004, his adventures are narrated in the nearly wordless Owly series of graphic novels. Owly has become incredibly popular in schools, libraries, and homes throughout the country and around the world. Non-violent subject matter, natural settings, straightforward yet emotionally complex stories, and endearing characters appeal to many different readers and makes this series the perfect choice for students of all ages. Because there are very few words, younger readers can read Owly books without being overwhelmed by text. This can spark an interest in books, instill cognitive and comprehensive skills at an even earlier age, and motivate students to move comfortably toward more advanced reading. In addition, more advanced readers can digest the Owly stories quickly, absorbing the subtextual plots easily without realizing that they are learning. They can enjoy a wonderful change in perspective that can facilitate more interest in education.
It may seem that a student could read a wordless comic quickly (and without much effort). One soon realizes, however, that he or she must apply further evaluation and observation skills to be able to follow the story line. This helps develop strong visual skills as the student has to carefully examine the panels in order to understand what is happening, rather than just quickly skip over them and only read word bubbles. The Owly books are primarily wordless and, while the ability to create a story without text is challenging, the resulting books appeal to all ages and all reading proficiencies, including reluctant and challenged readers. Learning accelerates as readers pick up the books without being told to do so, and their confidence grows with each story.
The Owly books rely on the characters’ facial expressions, actions, and gestures in addition to the background setting depicted in each panel to explain what is happening. Speech and thought balloons convey additional messages to assist with understanding. Unknowingly, the students begin to realize the significance of symbols, reading the book in a traditional style and following the panels in order to determine the story‘s progression and meaning.
Although Owly is a series, each book is self-contained and all-ages friendly. While there is the portrayal of emotion and action, the books are devoid of anger or violence, making them suitable for even the most timid or sensitive student. Reading Owly aloud in a classroom setting requires a slightly different approach. When you’re reading Owly, be sure to identify the animal and say the character’s name. For instance, when Owly interacts with his worm friend, ask the students what type of animal it is and state the character’s name: “Wormy.” Additionally, when Owly says something, translate the symbols into words based on the context of the action (for example, a simple “!” may become a “Thanks!” or a “Be Careful!”). You can also ask the students what they think the characters are doing, saying, or feeling to help get them more involved. Owly lets readers comprehend a story without requiring that they understand text. Language skills are developed through visual observation that provides clues to the meaning of words. Struggling students can develop confidence in their abilities when they are able to read the Owly books without help.
We've even provided a whole assortment of free lesson plans to help give teachers ideas and help them in their efforts.
Thank you for your support! Owly and I really appreciate it.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.