Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, January 6, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Pleasure

My students are huge fans of the Owly nearly wordless graphic novels written and illustrated by Andy Runton., Owly, Vol. 1:  The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer, Owly, Vol. 2:  Just a Little Blue, Owly, Vol. 3:  Flying Lessons, Owly, Vol. 4:  A Time to Be Brave and Owly, Vol. 5:  Tiny Tales.  In Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter!, Andy Runton adds full color to the friends' adventures creating a one-of-a-kind picture book treasure.

Wormy sitting on his head, Owly watering can in hand, looks skyward.  Plump, purple-bodied butterflies breeze by happy gazes gracing their faces as monarch-like wings hold them aloft.  Owly and Wormy wishing they would stay decide to ask the local nursery owner, a raccoon, for the proper flower with the power of attraction.

Handing them a milkweed plant and wishing them luck our companions head home hoping their newly planted perennial will bring the winged beauties back.  They wait and wait, even painting signs with butterflies on them to place around the milkweed.  They do notice that their newly acquired foliage seems to be looking a little bit raggedy. 

On closer inspection Owly and Wormy are surprised to see that two caterpillars have taken up residence among the leaves.  Saddened at first, they nevertheless welcome them as new friends.  They spend many a day together in all kinds of weather.

The two caterpillars sadly tell Owly and Wormy it's time for them to go.  In fact, they leave before any goodbyes can be said; even the delivery of a handmade card.  As time passes Owly changes the signs to one picturing their missing buddies.

That's when Wormy notices two strange brown bumps on the milkweed.  With some shakes and shimmies, two new butterflies emerge; their friends are transformed.  Abundant joy is had by all.

In this title the illustrations are colored using digital pastels after being drawn and inked by hand.  Andy Runton manages to convey the continued charm of the lasting friendship between Owly and Wormy through tender facial expressions and companionable moments; the two brainstorming in pictorial speech bubbles about the butterflies, saying their goodnights in their own beds side by side, or enduring a summer rainstorm with their individual umbrellas.  Owly's round shape, wings ever gentle in touch and large expressive eyes are kindness personified, er..."owlified".  Runton even demonstrates his, or perhaps Owly's, conservationist nature when he has an idea; the light bulb in the speech bubble is a curly energy efficient model. 

Runton's technique of varying the size of his visuals adds interest and flow to the storyline; two page spreads, single page, or two, three or six separate graphics across a double page.  The larger illustrations bleed to the page edge with the smaller visuals softened in a circular manner; lending warmth and invitation.  Happiness permeates throughout the pages of this book.

For sheer enjoyment for all ages, place Andy Runton's Owly & Wormy:  Friends All Aflutter! in a reader's hand, in fact the cover alone will guarantee that this book will never make its way to our shelves but be passed from one to another.  The value of a steadfast friendship and the miracle of change are rarely presented in such a pleasing package.

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