Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gazing Goodness

When connections are made between characters and readers it's sometimes hard to let them go when a book reaches its conclusion.  In fact, once my students (or I) get hooked on a series, the wait for the next book is almost unbearable.  Eventually when the new titles arrive names are drawn to see who gets to check them out first.

Fans of the nearly wordless five graphic novels which introduced readers to Owly were thrilled with the first all color picture book, Owly & Wormy:  Friends All Aflutter! (reviewed here).  Jumping with joy is going to be an understatement when they see the latest title, Owly & Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights!(Atheneun Books For Young Readers)  Author/illustrator Andy Runton has penned and pictured another tender tale shared by two of the most unlikely but devoted friends.

With grins all around the story begins even before the title page with the arrival of a package containing a telescope.  As the sun sets Owly reveals his plans for a nighttime adventure although Wormy is a tad bit scared by the dark and the mysterious


emitting from the surrounding forest.  Like the true friend he is, Owly has the answer, a lantern and candles.

Problem number one strikes when the leafy branches of their home block any sight of the stars.  But not to worry, Owly has a plan.  Tomorrow they will trek to the hill with a clear view.  Packed for the hike the two drift off to sleep no doubt dreaming of their adventure tomorrow.

Midway through their hilltop lunch the next day, problem number two rolls in with dark clouds and rain.  If he had a middle name it would be prepared, Owly has packed rain gear and finds a cave not too far away.  Ooooo...what's that sound?


Yikes!  They scurry out of there in a hurry.  Whew...after the rain stops they set up their tiny tent on the hill, lantern and candles are lit and they're ready to look toward the night sky only to discover...problem number three...the telescope has fallen from Owly's backpack.

Wormy quickly volunteers to stay and guard the encampment (there's no way he's going back toward "those" sounds).  Now clearly lost in the darkened woods, needing to locate the telescope, Owly is starting to get spooked by the noises too.  Silence broken by eerie notes, peering eyes, creatures of the night are coming into sight.

Saddened Owly longs to return to Wormy.  Frightened, Wormy is wondering about shadows and the whereabouts of Owly.  Owly and Wormy realize, as do readers, the darkness can reveal much if we have the eyes and minds to understand.

When you look at the jacket and cover opened, it is impossible not to get caught up in the smiles worn by Owly, Wormy, the bats, chipmunk, opossum, raccoon, snail and fireflies.  This crew of forest creatures are clearly enjoying their nighttime escapade.  After the soft purple endpapers (opening and closing), a turn of page shows Owly's telescope delivered by a snail wearing a MAIL pouch.  You have to love the humor and joy portrayed in this sunny, opening illustration.

Following with the publication data carefully tucked into the tip top branches in the left-hand corner, the title arching like the sunset on the right-hand page, standing on the platform of their tree house (spread across two pages) our two pals are ready to greet their next adventure. Given that most of this story takes place at night Runton uses velvety shades of purple, deep blues, gray and black within and around his pictures drawn and inked by hand with digital pastels for coloring.  As in the previous title he alters his visual sizes and placement to punctuate and enhance pauses, pace and the storyline.  There is a pleasing balance to the flow of the tale.

Rebus-like speech bubbles clarify the "dialogue" between the two friends as well as the newest members of the tale.  The expressions depicted on all the characters are compelling and brimming with emotion; the widening of eyes, the curve of mouth or the lifting of an eyebrow leave no doubt as to what they are feeling.  One of my favorite two page spreads is when Owly brings out the lantern and candles to light up the night for Wormy.

Written and illustrated by Andy Runton Owly & Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights entertains in the best possible way; tucking in the message about embracing the night and what it has to offer within a wonderful story of friendship enduring the ups and downs of life's events.  Publishers, Simon & Schuster offer a glimpse of eleven images from the story at a link here.  Andy and Patty Runton have designed a 30 page lesson plan packet which can be downloaded in .pdf format here.  Be sure you head over to the website linked to Andy Runton's name above for even more graphic goodies plus an Owly T-shirt, hat and plush toy.

Check out this adorable short animated video about Owly & Wormy.


  1. Replies
    1. I wholeheartedly agree. I adore the complete series, graphic novels and these picture books. The stories are great and provide the perfect connection to beginning readers.

      Thanks for stopping in to comment.