Created by: Andy Runton

ISBN: 1891830627 (Amazon)

Pages: 160


It’s difficult to know exactly what to say about Owly. The book is slight, certainly. One can breeze through the entire volume in under fifteen minutes. That there are nearly no words means that readers will spend all their time reading pictures instead of divvying time between text and illustration. The stories are simple (even perhaps simplistic) and the characters are all dressed in heart-on-sleeve fashion. The art, too, is low on detail and finish, using broad brushstrokes and few lines to convey character and place. There is no evidence of brilliant craftsmanship shining through Runton’s illustrations (not that Owly‘s art isn’t brilliantly crafted, but more that it just doesn’t grab you by the collar to scream in your face expounding on how brilliant it is).

Owly by Andy Runton

These are all things that can be said about Andy Runton’s Owly, and yet none of these adequately describe this charming little book.

Without words, Owly may be the perfect investment for families with young children, a book that can be read over and over and told differently every time. Runton’s tales about an overtly sincere, disarmingly careful owl can function as a genuine vehicle for teaching parents better ways to tell stories. While the bones of the narrative (Runton’s illustrations) remain unchanged, the way a reader chooses to convey the story to small listeners will evolve and grow through multiple readings. I’m not sure if this conceit was one of Runton’s intentions, but sometimes even unintended ends justify a variety of means.

Owly by Andy Runton

And with simple life lessons and the obvious emotional carnage his characters suffer at the hand of being perhaps too invested in their loneliness and pain, Owly marks a suitable tool for social pedagogy. Parents can use kids’ natural affection for Owly himself to draw out empathy for those outsiders who may be misunderstood, for those who cannot find the words to express themselves in acceptable ways within group settings. Owly is a caring, conscientious, and loving individual who cannot make friends because he’s simply too awkward to do so. He fumbles his opportunities and spends enough of his time alone that he’s come to expect that will be the way of his life—even though he consistently makes strides to overcome a life that causes him to grow despondent.

And perhaps that’s one of the lessons as well: even when things are going badly and it feels like you have no friends, keep being a friend to others and that friendliness will not let you down in the end. For it’s true. Just as Owly’s perseverance in showing love to his neighbours wins him some fast friends, so too might your children’s own friendliness net similar results.

But really, as true as these things are, none of them adequately describe this charming little book.

Owly by Andy Runton

At the end of the day, perhaps the best way is to reflect the simplicity with which the book itself is composed. Owly is a very short, very cute book that is probably enough to warm even your heart—if warmth is something to which you are at all inclined.


Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

3 Stars = Good
2 Stars = Ok
1 Star = Bad

I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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