Owly Vol. 4: A Time to Be Brave
Andy Runton, writer/artist
Top Shelf, December 2007
I’ve seen a bunch of critics say that the Owly books more or less defy review by adult critics, and perhaps even appreciation by adult readers. I’ve never really bought that, because I’ve always found Andy Runton’s line and character designs durable and warm, his use of rebus-like pictogram “dialogue” clever and engrossing, and his stories sweet and funny–that right there is good enough for this grown-up, even barring any other areas of interest. But in reading A Time to Be Brave–the plot: Owly’s friend Wormy believes a timid possum he encounters in the forest to be a dragon like the one he just read about in a storybook, while the possum believes Owly will eat him if he tries to join in on Owly & friends’ ballgame; emergency circumstances force everyone involved to put their fears aside–I realized that it actually does address two of my most grown-uppiest preoccupations in life and art. First, it’s about intellectually anthropomorphized animals, and through that lens it addresses issues of cruelty and predation that speak directly to some of my most deep-seated emotions and ideas on that score. Second, it’s about the need for people to intelligently, creatively cooperate in order to do the right thing, and the joy and satisfaction you get from doing so instead of falling back on competition, selfishness, and looking out for number one–a message I love seeing addressed here just as I did in, say, The Wire or Deadwood. So yes, it’s a great book for kids, but you’d have to pry it out of my hands first before you could give it to them.