The Way Home

Scholastic/Graphix. (Owly: Bk. 1). Feb. 2020. 160p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781338300666; pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781338300659.
K-Gr 4–Owly is back, in color and with dialogue and narration! This book comprises two of the gentle little owl’s earliest stories, “Finding Home” and “Flying Home” (formerly known as “The Bittersweet Summer”). In each, Owly gives selflessly, whether that means distributing food to other animals or taking a tumble to save someone smaller from danger. Unlike the other animals, who speak English, Owly speaks via pictures and symbols. Nonetheless, all communicate with ease; facial expressions, body language, and captions make characters’ emotions and motives clear. Friends are always beaming in one another’s presence and on the verge of tears when separated. As in previous installments, the rounded, large-eyed cartoon characters will endear themselves to readers, but now bright hues add further detail, effectively conveying Owly’s sunny world and occasional shadows. Pages are almost never more than two panels wide, and each story wraps up on a high note over a few single-panel pages. Thick gutters make the frequent 2x3 layouts easy to follow. The loss of the wordless format from previous editions means young readers will learn to navigate over, around, and through short word balloons. Never fear: Runton’s visual communication remains extremely fertile ground for parents and children to discuss how characters feel and why they act the way they do.
VERDICT As always, Owly is a steadfast and indispensable friend to everyone he meets, including young readers in search of warmhearted adventure.

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