Usually when I show a parent a wordless or nearly wordless book for their child who can already read, their first reaction is that their child is too advanced for such a thing. Not at all! Reading words and letters is important, but though we often forget it, the deciphering of shapes into meaning is only one part of what goes into a story. The ability to see the arc of the story and understand the meaning of what’s going on are separate component parts. And while of course my son reads print every day, the deciphering letters part is hard for him. I got him this nearly wordless comic to give him something to relax with, where he can focus on the parts that he’s already good at and just enjoy the story. But wordless stories are also good for kids whose letter-decoding skills are just fine, but who have difficulty with the narrative flow and comprehension. Making up words for a story that doesn’t have one already is healthy stretching for mental muscles that might not get such a workout when the words are right there.
Owly. The Way Home & Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton Owly helps baby worm find his way home. 4/16/13
I’ve been hearing about Owly for years, but this was my first foray into book-length Owly. He’s a round and adorable little owl who gets into all sorts of adventures. In the first story, Owly is (somewhat ironically) filling his bird feeder when he finds a baby worm who’s been separated from his family and lost his way home. It takes Owly a little while to convince him that he’s safe, but when the rain stops, they set out on a journey to find the little worm’s family. In the second story, Owly and the little worm (who has decided to stay on for a bit) make friends with some hummingbirds, and then are heartbroken when the summer ends and their friends need to migrate. The art is sweet and expressive. It’s not entirely wordless – there are sound effects and the occasional bit of print on a sign or building. In “The Bittersweet Summer”, Owly makes a photo album and captions the photos with text. Usually, though, the thought and word bubbles are filled with imaged sequences or punctuation marks. Runton does amazing things with almost no words, telling moving stories with characters we care about. They are good storytelling, no matter your reading level.
Remember that tomorrow, Saturday May 4, is Free Comic Book Day! Visit your local comic book store or participating library to get your free comics.