“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Owly Books • Graphic novels

Owly: A Time to be Brave
Owly: Tiny Tales
by Andy Runton
Spring 2009 • Top Shelf • All ages
"One of the best comics for kids around. Period."
-- Wired.com
"Charming ... reminiscent of children’s literature in the style of Frog and Toad, or Winnie the Pooh and Piglet."
-- Publishers Weekly
Story: Owly is a kind, yet lonely, little owl who knows what it means to be human. Relying on a mixture of symbols and expressions, Andy Runton's animated and heartwarming style makes Owly a perfect read for everyone.
Story behind the story: I'm going to cut right to the chase and let OWLY creator Andy Runton give you the OWLY background as well as some info on how the books are being used:

Hello there. I wanted to tell you a little bit about the Owly books I write and illustrate, and how they help promote literacy.

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.

Take care,
Andy :)

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.


Sandra Stiles said...

Owly: A Time To Be Brave by Andy Runton

This was the first graphic novel I had ever read. I was able to follow the plot and understand why students of all grades like them. I feel that this and other graphic novels will be an asset to my bookshelves. I believe it will be especially beneficial to my new ESOL students. Unable to read a lot of English and in some cases no English, these students can still successfully read a book. The underlying messagef not fearing the unknown is one they need to hear and I think will help with the transition to this country. I give this a rating of 5

Mrs. Vincent said...

Owly: A Time To Be Brave by Andy Runton

Like Sandra, this was the first ever graphic novel I had ever read! I have tried to read a few but it has always been so hard for me to follow the story without getting a headache! This book did not give me a headache though! It was very cute. One thing I definitely like is that it is wordless. It forced me to slow down and really think about what the pictures were portraying to me and to develop the dialogue myself. In the past, I think I focused so much on the dialogue and had trouble understanding the whole story. By being wordless, Owly let me embrace the graphic novel format but gave me freedom to create my own dialogue in my head which seemed easier then trying to take in the pictures and the dialogue like in other graphic novels I have tried to read.

As a teacher, I was excited to see that there are lesson plans to go along with this series and that it does lend itself to working with students. Some graphic novels I have picked up have been too graphic for me to recommend to students, but this is a sweet story about not judging someone before getting to know him or her which I think is relevant to students at any age level. After having read Owly, I now have all sorts of ideas for how I can use this with my students, especially my students who struggle with reading and are below grade level. I really think with some guidance and modeling about how to read a graphic novel those students could feel successful about reading and help them develop confidence with reading. Added bonus, there are some facts about possums which could be lead into nonfiction reading. Love when books lead to other books, and especially cross-curricular topics! I'm ready to go buy all the books in the series!

Laurie said...

Owly is a great book and very useful teaching tool. By having to really pay attention to details and expressions in order to "read" the book, it forces you to slow down and really take your time to understand the story. My 5 year old, 6 year old and 10 year old all enjoyed it.
Beyond that, it also is a nice story. I give it a 5 out of 5.

Laurie said...

Oops! The Owly we read was Owly: A Time To Be Brave.

Julia Pitau said...

Being an advocate for graphic novels, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one specifically for younger students. When I first received A Time to be Brave, I thought I would get through it rather quickly. Was I surprised at the indepth illustrations! Yes, it did take me a little time to get through the book because I really enjoyed the development of the story line and the details of each picture. I am looking forward to letting our elementary teachers know about this new book. If they like it as much as I hope they will, I plan to include the entire series in our library.

5 out of 5!

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Carol said...

I just finished reading Owly, Tiny Tales and give it a 5 out of 5 rating. The book felt like an organic experience, from the recycled paper to the subtle messages of ecology throughout the pages.

Owly is a human ecologist, and I like that role for a graphic novel character. Owly thinks about the world he lives in and unravels the connections between man and nature. He makes compromises and implements changes to enhance his environment.

At first I thought the colorless pages and the mostly wordless text would not work for me. I was wrong. The illustrations display emotion, and express delicate details that do the talking. I loved the handful of talking bubbles and symbols too.

Carol Null
Pemetic Elementary School
Southwest Harbor, ME
K-8 Librarian

Mary said...

Owly: Tiny Tales by Andy Runton

I really enjoyed this book. I thought the story lines were easy to follow, the characters were likeable as well as relatable to my students. I teach in an urban environment and I get a lot of students in my library who don't speak any English. They would be able to read this book and understand what was going on without having a grasp of the English language.

I have never read a graphic novel before, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! I would definitely recommend this book to my students, as well as to teachers to use to have children create their own story. I give this book a 5.

EL said...

Owly: Tiny Tales is a great read for all ages. Runton is a master of creating expressions on his characters that speak volumes. Readers of all ages can easily follow the storylines and extract a multitude of themes, including: friendship, empathy, and kindess. I highly recommend Owly. 4 out 5!

Lisa said...

Owly: Tiny Tales

4 out of 5

These amusing tales of Owly and his best friend Wormy will entertain readers of all ages. The tales are centered around the theme of friendship and problem solving. This book is unique in that it is a graphic novel, but also wordless. The characters are drawn with wonderful expressions and the use of speech bubbles and punctuation is used creatively so that readers are able to "read" the book.

MeeMaw YaYa said...

Owly: A Time to Be Brave

We have a fair amount of graphic novels in my school library, but I was not familiar with the Owly series.

I enjoyed this novel, and as others have mentioned, had to slow my pace down a bit to read the visual clues. This is not a bad thing, if fact I can see where, if used as a whole class activity, it could level the playing field between strong and weaker readers.

The storyline is strong and original, and the characters endearing. I know students will relate to the notion that there is great reward in being brave in the presence of irrational fears. I appreciate that Runton has purposed to keep his stories free from violence.

As an art teacher-turned librarian, I tuned in to the illustrations and page layout, which in my opinion, are as important to the graphic novel as the storyline. The black and white illustrations move back and forth from three rows to a page to pages to a single row. The extra white space allows the reader a little breathing room before returning to the three row pages. This softens the whole visual experience.

I plan to purchase the entire series for my elementary school library and introduce these books through book talks so that they will get the readership they richly deserve.


Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tasses said...

I absolutely adored this book! Please see my full, glowing review on Reading Rumpus

Cheryl Vanatti
Reading Specialist
Picnic Basket Rating 4.5/5

Anonymous said...

Owly: Tiny Tales

I haven't read entirely through this book yet, but the stories that I have read I have really enjoyed. My almost 3 year old daughter also enjoys the ones we've read together.

The stories are nice. They highlight many great virtues like cooperation, sharing, helping, friendship and taking care of the environment.

It looks pretty. The cover is beautiful, the pictures are great, and the layout is fun. Runton does a great job telling stories with pictures.

It's a great educational tool for all grades.

5 out of 5

Sarah Oyerinde
Marion, IN

Tegan said...

Oh the possibilities in teaching narrative writing! I loved this book! I'm going to buy the other one! As a 4th grade teacher, this book would give me a great opportunity to teach my students aspects of great narrative writing.
Rating - 5

campbele said...

Owly: A Time To Be Brave by Andy Runton

Owly is a simple story that uses simple drawings to convey meaning and it almost works. Many values can be found in the book which can be discussed with "readers" while deciphering meaning from the images. One can discuss the diversity of the animals who all seem to be friends or eveen the importance of reading in overcoming fear and ignorance. Yet, when we step outside the story, one has t wonder why the most critical part of the story, where the opposum is identified as such, why is that done with words and this is the only place words are used? Non readers would miss the meaning! In a few other places the story, series of oversimplified drawings are used, almost over used to the point of confusing the action.

Anonymous said...

I love graphic novels, and not surprsingly, my students do too. Owly is an excellent tool for teaching inference, characterization, and narrative description. Picnic Basket rating: 4 of 5

Rachel Mahlke
English Seven
OMI Academy
Oakland, CA

StacyB said...

What a fun read! I've never experienced a graphic novel before and Owly: Tiny Tales was a joy! I can see students of all ages engaged in the pictures and story development. I plan on using this in my Kindergarten classroom this fall with students one-on-one to get them talking about what they see happening.

Heather Hill said...

Owly: A Time to Be Brave by Andy Runton

This was not the first graphic novel I have read, but it is the first that I have felt has great appeal for many different ages of kids. Younger students will enjoy the characters and identify with being scared of unknown or different things and older students will enjoy the detail in the pictures and how they convey the story to us without using words. I give Owly a 5 out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Michelle said...

The illustrations in Owly a Time to be Brave are very impressive. I can't wait to share this with my patrons. 4 out of 5.

SunshineFamily73 said...

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Not only are the little characters filled with emotions but the lack of dialog allows the child to develop his own. I have a 7 year old that has loved the Owly comic books for the last couple of years. We have three, I think mainly from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. He tells the stories differently each time- I hear him reading this book over and over. He was also thrilled with the OWLY lesson plan which I printed out for my use with students but he took as his own. Not only have we used the print out but we visited the website where the comics are available to read online. I think the great thing about OWLY is that it provides a clear and detailed story but allows for the child to write and rewrite the story. I love it. My 7 year old loves it. I have no doubt that K-2 students will love it. These little guys really relate to Owly and his friends.

SunshineFamily73 said...

I meant to leave this in my previous comment- we read OWLY: A TIME TO BE BRAVE but I am sure the other reviewer's book was just as brilliant. 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 !!

EShay said...

Owly: Tiny Tales was a cute book. I have read numerous graphic novels and was not over the moon for this one. Owly is cute and the emotions are poignant. The stories are easy to follow, but I found the plots to be too simple and contrived.

I prefer to have more words, but I believe this could be a good book to use with students who are very reluctant readers. I could also see the short tales being used to get students to write.

I did enjoy the added part at the end that showed the evolution of Owly. However, the use of all capital letters was upsetting. They are difficult to read.
I give Owly a 4.

Amy said...

Owly: Tiny Tales

This is a great graphic novel for younger students. I liked that it was wordless, so you really had to "read" the pictures. I know this will be a popular choice for my students! rating: 5

Mrs. Maiolo said...

I haven't read the Owly books posted here yet (because I stupidly had them sent to my school instead of my home during the summer - duh) but I did go on their website and I ordered class sets of two different "free comic book day" versions of "Owly and Friends" - for FREE! I am very excited about these because I have been looking for some wordless books to encourage my kids to "read the pictures" at the beginning of the year. These are so cute and I think the graphic novel format will be exciting to my kids. I look forward to using them! I also love that there are lesson plans on their website - how wonderful! I give this a rating of 5!

CPA Mom said...

Owly: A Time to Be Brave.

5 out of 5.

Complete review here:


Mrs. Horne said...

This is the very first time I have read a graphic novel and boy am I hooked! I just never realized how much emotion, dialogue, and plot can be conveyed through pictures.

I think this would be a wonderful tool to use with ESOL students, struggling readers, or just something to give to strong readers to enjoy.


Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School
New Kent, VA

ESnover said...

I really enjoyed Owly, and like others, this is the first graphic novel I read. I really think this venue offers so many benefits to readers of all ages! 5 out of 5.

Anonymous said...

I give Owly: A Time to Be Brave by Andy Runton a 5!
Shared the book to teacher and student(s) over the summer and have finally gotten it back to re-read and review. It was well worth the re-read and allowed many students the oppotunity to tell their story as they read it. Well done and keep Owly coming.