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Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer
Review by Kerry Garvin

Owly: The Way Home Review Cover Image
Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer

Andy Runton
Andy Runton

Top Shelf Productions
Softcover Original
Publish Date
September 2004
Cover Price
Don’t let my predilection towards cuddly creatures fool you; Owly is the kind of book and character that will please comic reading fans no matter their age or interests. This refreshing tale of a young, lonely and sometimes misunderstood owl is suited for all ages because it successfully traverses many levels. On the surface, it is a simple story about friendship and adventure, but as the reader digs deeper themes of loneliness, trust, and love come out. The mature reader will have no problems understanding the issues at the core of the book, while youngsters will be able to enjoy the book now and then read it in a whole new light in years to come.

This first volume of Owly is divided into two novellas. Both stories serve as a great introduction to the character and Runton’s style. In the first section, The Way Home, Owly finds himself at the peak of his loneliness. He tries to make many friends, but their fear of owls, keeps them from really knowing Owly. Finally, Owly meets a small worm that needs his help and a friendship is born. In the second story, The Bittersweet Summer, Owly and Wormy make two new friends, a hummingbird couple Angel and Tiny. They care for the couple until it is time for the birds to go south for the winter.

Although the book is extremely light on words, it is not light on story. The only text in the book is the occasional sound, such as “knock knock” or “Hmmmm”, and the labeling on a seed packet or photo caption. When words might be needed, Runton uses an icon instead. When the store keeper wishes Owly good luck, for example, Runton depicts a horseshoe and an exclamation point in a word balloon. This inventive technique might be Runton’s strongest trait. It makes the book easy to “read” and understand without words to weigh it down. This style keeps the book very light and fresh.

Since Runton employs this iconic style rather than using words, his drawing skills have to be good. Luckily for the reader, he clearly knows his way around a pencil and pad. Keeping with the light script, Runton’s art has a free and floaty feel to it. Nothing is heavy or weighed down. He portrays the zippiness of the hummingbirds especially well. They flit about the panels in a semi-chaotic manner just as real hummingbirds would. Owly: The Way Home Review Interior Image

This book definitely wouldn’t succeed without a believable main character. Runton draws Owly flawlessly. He is definitely the cutest character to come along in years. Owly’s different expressions made me feel for him right away. He is just so adorable; he’ll break your heart. Finally, Runton’s portrayal of Owly’s emotions is outstanding. He is bewildered, sad, happy, lonely, and peaceful all in the space of a few pages. This realistic portrayal of human emotions reels the reader in.

Bonus Features
The book contains a full color cover, the two novellas and several drawings at the back of the book. It also has some great end sheets. Both the opening and closing end sheets include a happy forest scene printed in a brownish gold of the cover rather than the black and white of the rest of the book.
Final Words

Admittedly, I love cute little creatures. It is in a girl’s makeup to love small helpless things. Something about them stirs up all the estrogen in me and makes me say things like “Awwww, he’s so cute” out loud. Knowing this as I went in to Owly, I tried to find things wrong with the book. I even tried not to like it. I couldn’t help it though. Owly the character is too cute and the story is too heartfelt to resist. All cuteness aside, Runton has created a character and a tale that all people can relate to and he does it with style and ease. I recommend this book to hard core comic fans and non readers alike. Its appeal is truly universal.


Kerry Garvin (email) is a total nerd. She once made a robot out of tin foil for a boy she loved, but was too shy to deliver it. Kerry can also be found rambling at The Comic Queen and A View From the Ham.
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