Runton, A. (2004). Owly: The Way Home and the Bittersweet Summer. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions.
Appetizer: In The Way Home, Owly is alone. None of the littler birds or bugs want to be friends with him. But when Owly finds a worm and nurses him back to health, he sets out on a quest to return his new friend to his family.
In the second story of this book, The Bittersweet Summer, Owly and Wormy meet a couple of hummingbirds. It falls to the friends to save one of the hummingbirds, but after that they face a bigger challenge of having to say goodbye for the winter.
(By the way, I keep calling Owly a he, but the text doesn't reveal gender, allowing both young boys and girls to identify with the owl)
This graphic novel series is almost completely wordless. Every now and then a book title of one of Owly's books is shown or there's a sound effect. But even when the characters dialogue, it is shown through illustration (although, admittedly, this has the potential to be the most difficult part for young readers to navigate. A teacher may want to be ready to help walk the child through it).
Owly is a very relatable character. His huge wide eyes invite sympathy. And the fact that he feels lonely can draw the reader right into the story.
To Go with the Meal:
This is an excellent graphic novel series to recommend to younger readers (I probably wouldn't go younger than the second or third grade though). Since this graphic novel series is almost completely wordless, it encourages visual literacy and a teacher could encourage students to narrate about what they are seeing.
Young kids will also be able to relate to Owly on an emotional level. They could write journal entries from Owly or Wormy's point of views or they could describe a time when they have ever felt lonely or worried or are trying to make new friends.
Since Owly and Wormy compare the different types of homes that they come from, a teacher could discuss what and where home is with students, having them draw a picture of their own home. Students could also work on map reading or creating (they could draw maps of their neighborhood or the school while paying attention to the landmarks).
Students could also work on a gardening project, paying attention to grow local flora or plants that provide nutrients for specific animals. Another option would be to research hummingbirds and other birds.
This would be a good book to also assign at the start of fall term, then a teacher could have students explore the changing seasons and, following Owly's example, create scrapbooks of what they did over the summer.
A teacher could discuss how to make a purchase, or how to help friends based on what each individual needs.
Tasty Rating: !!!