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Beak & Ally: unlikely friends

by Norm Feuti
2021 / 64 pages

If you’re like me and can’t get enough of comic duos, here’s another odd couple pairing you’ll want to get to know. Ally is an alligator that appreciates his alone time, and Beak is a Yellow-Bellied Fee Boo bird, new to the swamp, and eager to make friends. She’s also blissfully unaware that predators and prey don’t usually spend quality time together, so she makes her introductions by way of landing on Ally’s snout.

Ally isn’t the most receptive, and is even quite annoyed by Beak’s “Fee Boo” song. But when a Long-Bill Party Pooper kicks Beak out of her new nest, it’s Ally to the rescue.

This is light-hearted fun, and not really meant as anything more. That said, it could be used by a parent to talk about what it means to be open to friendship with folks who don’t share exactly the same interests.

There are three more in the series so far. In Bedtime Jitters Beak has trouble sleeping, because of all the weird sounds that happen in the swamp at night. Thankfully, Ally is there to explain that the Zump Zump Monster was just a bullfrog, and the Chatter Ghosts are just cicadas, and so on. They do get a little excitement when their night-time excursion leads them to some humans about to dump a load of trash in the swamp, but Beak and Ally make their own scary sounds and scare them away. In The Big Storm Beak senses a storm is coming and gets her nest ready. Ally is a little skeptical, but as the winds pick up, he starts helping smaller animals make it to cover, and when he later discovers his own home ruined, these neighbors pitch in to help – this is a sweet feel-good story. Finally, in Snow Birds, vacationing birds take advantage of Beak’s good nature, and it is up to Ally to set some ground rules, and clear up the misunderstanding.

The only caution for the series would a language concern in The Big Storm, where Beak says, “Oh my gosh.”

This would be a wonderful series for Grades 2 though 4.

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Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer

by Andy Runton 2004 / 160 pages This is two stories in one, and at about 80 pages each, they have room for some real fun. In the first, we get introduced to Owly, who, as you may have guessed, is an owl. The forest creatures are afraid of him because, well, he’s an owl, and they know that typically owls eat creatures like them. But not Owly. He’s a kinder gentler owl, and all he wants to do is feed his fellow birds seeds. Sadly, no one trusts him, and Owly is all alone… until the night of the big storm! Then Owly finds a worm, half-drowned, and nurses it back to health. Worm, realizing he hadn’t been eaten, trusts and befriends Owly, which is the start of something beautiful. It’s never really explained what Owly does eat, but we can be certain that it isn’t cute little worms! In the second story, Owly and Worm meet a couple of hummingbirds and have a great time until the little speedsters have to head south for the winter. But don’t worry, they’ll be back come Spring! It’d be more accurate to call these “talkless” rather than “wordless” because, even as the dialogue between Owly and his worm friend is limited to symbols and punctuation marks – a question mark when one of them is puzzled and an exclamation mark when they are excited – there’s the occasional shop sign or even a whole encyclopedia page entry on hummingbirds that does require the reader to be able to actually read. If you’re considering getting this for your school library, you’ll be interested to know there are two editions of this story, the first in black and white with this symbol-based dialogue, and the second, now titled simply Owly: The Way Home (2020) that is in full-color and adds in a minimal bit of verbiage between the characters. While I really like the original near-wordless version, it was sometimes a bit hard to decipher what Owly and his pal were saying to each other, so the second editions are probably the best way to go. Everything in this series seems to be gentle and kind including Just a Little Blue (1st edition 2005 /2nd edition 2020, 130 pages), Flying Lessons (2005/2021, 144 pages), A Time To Be Brave (2007/2022, 132 pages), and Tiny Tales (2008, 172 pages)....