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Owly Vol 5: Tiny Tales, a Review or a Revelation of an Owly Crush
Reviewed by Scott Tingley, May 01, 2009

A bird, a heart and a tree = Birdies Love Trees (this one gets a little weird, but stick with me on this).

That is what comes to mind when I think about or try to explain the charm of the simple black and white wordless comic, Owly. A cute owl and his worm friend came into my life pretty much by accident almost four years ago and I am not exaggerating when I say that the characters and the creator changed the direction of, if not my life, certainly my free time and even my teaching career.

Here's the story; let's call it: “The Origin of Comics in the Classroom, The Chess Comic and the Comic Initiatives Made by My School District”

I may have written this before, but it is due for a repeat. I picked up the Top Shelf Free Comic Book Day issue in May 2005 just because it was there, but after flipping through the comic later that day I knew that I needed to bring it to school and share it with my grade 1-2 class. It featured the cutest owl and little worm and they were entering a bird bath creating competition. SPOILER ALERT! They didn't win, but in the end the birds loved their tree-birdbath, so it was a moral victory. The kids liked the look of it and they responded to a couple of the activities I came up with for it so as a writing activity I had them write a story about how Owly and his best friend Wormy became friends. I then contacted the creator, Andy Runton, and asked if he would be interested in having the stories sent to him. He was very interested and a couple of weeks later I received an email from him showing a scan of the original water colour painting he did for the class in thanks. The painting, which shows the main and supporting characters sitting around reading the kid's letters, hangs in my classroom still.

But how, you may ask, did this change your life ? It didn't right away, but it planted the seed that grew to become this, my first website, ComicsintheClassroom.net. That led to me doing day and week-long workshops for kids and teachers through my school district and my local libraries. From there I created the Kid's Book review blog and finally The Chess Comic. Comics have consumed my free time, but I never dreamed, as a kid obsessed with comics, that when I grew up I would be teaching kids about comics, and being sent review copies of comics by publishers interested in what I had to say or that I would by creating comics myself and having them beamed all over the world (internet=science fiction).

If Andy Runton had ignored my initial inquiry it is possible that none of this would have happened. Yay Andy.

Okay, so what? Well, Owly has been the focus of Top Shelf's FCBD plans for the past four years and they have just published a collection of those four issues along with other Owly odds and ends, like some of the first Owly sketches. I think this is a great move. The FCBD issues remain my favorite stories in the Owly line and it is nice to have them in this attractive little digest. It is little (about the dimensions of those Archie Digests you see at the grocery checkout), but that is okay. These stories were originally published as full sized black and white comics but they have been reduced with no quality lost. The images are just as crisp and clear as they were at full size.

If you have never read any of these stories, don't think that because they are wordless they are only for non-readers. They are for non-readers, but I have had very good grade 2 and 3 readers try them out and they have to really pay attention to what is going on to get the gist of the tale. They need to use their reading comprehension strategies if they want to actually read the comic. This is really a book for the whole family. Open your heart and mind to the super cuteness of Owly and you will have a great time.

If you have never read Owly, Owly: Tiny Tales is a great place to start. If you have been reading and collecting Owly books all along, then you need this even if you already have the original free issues. At 10 dollars US for 175 pages you can't go wrong.

And, I just found out that Owly will headline Top Shelf's FCBD issue again this year.



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