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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/27/2004 Archived Entry: "Graphic Novel review: Owly"

by Andy Runton
Publisher: Top Shelf Comics

Review by Kathryn Ramage

This is adorable -- one of the sweetest children's stories I've seen in a long time.

Owly is a graphic novel about a lonely little owl who finds a friend. The first panels capture both Owly's loneliness and kindness beautifully, without one word: birds at a feeder fly away in alarm as someone approaches, but it's only Owly, come to replenish the birdseed for them. Owly finds two fireflies trapped in a glass jar; he releases them, only to have them also fly away in fear. Then it starts to rain. Five pages in, the full-page image of this little owl standing alone in the middle of the woods in a rainstorm is just heartbreakingly poignant. When Owly hears someone shouting for help, he finds and rescues a worm drowning a mud puddle, and takes it home.

The book is divided into two stories: In the first, "The Way Home," Owly helps his new friend Wormy find his home and family again after the worm was swept away by the rainstorm. In the second, "The Bittersweet Summer," Owly and Wormy befriend a pair of hummingbirds. In both stories, Owly is required to let his friends go and risk losing them, and yet he does so.

The dialog in the word-balloons throughout the book is not presented as written text, but as a set of pictograms that are easy to understand and tell the story without crowding the pages (and without making the reader wonder just how a worm and owl would talk to each other). More complex ideas, like information on the care, feeding, and migratory habits of hummingbirds, are conveyed via a book on birds, which Owly consults to understand their behavior.

Owly is charming, sweet, and kind-hearted, but never overly precious or treacly. I found it not only adorable, but genuinely touching.

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