Owly: Flying Lessons
by Andy Runton
Flying Lessons is the third installment of Andy Runton’s silent but touching comic about the adventures of a flightless owl, Owly, and his little worm friend, Wormy.
As Owly and Wormy are heading home one evening after planting flowers all day, they came across a strange animal that’s able to fly despite its lack of wings! Owly and Wormy are enamored by the creature’s big, shy eyes and are fascinated by its magical ability to glide through the air and swoop from tree to tree. Having never seen anything like it before, Wormy and Owly drew a picture of the animal and brought it to their friend the raccoon. After looking through a book about small mammals and ruling out bats and chipmunks, the three saw a picture of exactly what they were looking for, a flying squirrel! As soon as they began to celebrate, however, they hit a road block. It turns out that the predators flying squirrels fear most are owls. This was almost too much for him to handle, because Owly had his heart set on making friends with the ultra-cute critter.
You can’t keep these two down for long though, and they hatch a plan to convince the squirrel that there’s nothing to fear with Owly. But breaking the squirrel’s fear of owls isn’t so easy, and every effort Owly makes to become friends is rebuked, even when Wormy, whom the squirrel takes an instant liking to, tries to explain that Owly doesn’t want to eat anyone. That is, until one day when something terrible happens, and the flying squirrel sees how truly caring and gentle Owly really is, even if he is an owl.
In Flying Lessons we learn a lesson about tolerance and rethinking the prejudices we have been holding onto our entire lives, but the Owly series teaches us even more than that. Because Runton doesn’t use any written dialogue and the artwork is so expressive, one understands the story on a visceral level. Your mind is forced into a situation much like the characters, who are all different animals yet are able to communicate without the use of a common language. Instead, they rely on a commonality of kindness that transcends their respective species. And despite having tiny, little wings that keep him grounded and ostracized by other owls, Owly has a big heart and never gives up trying to make friends with all kinds of creatures. This book is touching, and reminds us that underneath our skin and beyond our language, we’re all creatures of the Earth and if we want to get along, we have to take an active role in getting to know one another, even if we begin with tiny, little acts of kindness.