Owly: Tiny Tales
Owly: Tiny Tales is the perfect starting point for someone interested in trying this series of charming fables. The volume collects Andy Runton’s various short stories featuring the characters, so it’s perfect for browsing or dipping into.
Four of the tales — “Splashin’ Around”, “Breakin’ the Ice”, “Helping Hands”, and “In a Fix!” — were previously published as giveaway comics for Free Comic Book Day. Others appeared in convention programs or anthology collections or minicomics. Because of the various sources, it’s likely that even the most dedicated fan of the character won’t have read all of them before. And for those new to the woodland, they’re lucky in having even more wonderful comics to explore.
Owly lives a very natural life. His days are filled with gardening, playing with friends, and solving simple problems, like getting his watering can fixed or feeding migrating birds or building a picnic table. The tales have worthwhile reminders about the virtues of hard work, friendship, good sportsmanship, sharing, and sacrifice. The pacing is comfortable and relaxing, symbolic of a balanced life.
The premises seem simple, but they’re well-chosen to be understandable and relatable by a variety of people, including youngsters. Because the stories are wordless — Owly and company communicate through symbols and pictographs, like a drawing of a horseshoe for wishing someone good luck — even pre-readers can enjoy the storytelling. I’m always impressed by how real and alive Owly and his friends seem, given how adorable they are and how economically they’re cartooned. Just a few lines, and yet they’re the cutest little birds and bugs and forest dwellers.
I also appreciate how the creatures maintain their essential animal qualities. For example, the raccoon is the shopkeeper because they have little hands. Don’t think too much how the puffball Owly, whose wings are tiny in relation to the size of his head, manages to do everything he does, like feed and house himself. If Wormy can work a pencil by curling himself around it, then I will believe that Owly somehow uses his feathers like thumbs to pound a hammer or put on a sweater.
The history section in the back, showing how Owly’s design developed, was a wonderful revelation. From a doodle to a beloved children’s story character, that’s quite a path.