Flying Lessons (Runton, 2005), the third comic in the Owly series, is a meaningful story for all ages. It involves the friendship of Owly (who cannot fly) and Wormy (who helps Owly experience the joy of flight). Another key character is a flying squirrel who is afraid of owls. A Booklist review notes that the author “hits the mark” in a tale about “confronting and overcoming fears” (Booklist reviews, n.d.).
I tried to enjoy Flying Lessons, but never took flight. I am a slow reader with most of my experience in text-based literature and picture books (wherein images usually support text), and my reading kept stopping and stalling to the point of losing the story along the way.
The features of this comic that caused my frustrating response involve visual literacy. I was challenged by the salience of Owly’s round shape which overshadowed the masterfully drawn, expressive eyes. The gazes of characters bridged many gutters and prevented me from delineating panels and benefiting from pensive ‘breathing space.’ In the conversation- and thought-balloons, the use of images instead of text often brought me to a full stop in order to decipher meaning. Because my already-slow reading slowed further, the black-and-white pages became monotonous and homogenized.
As a library science student with a background in literacy development, I realize that the features that frustrated me might very well be features that support other readers. Those with more comics experience are likely to fly through this title at a speed which supports comprehension of the story line. Readers with strong spatial intelligence (as per Howard Gardner and explained in Lyga, 2004, p. 2) are likely to enjoy decoding images in the balloons. Those who might be distracted by color variances are likely to benefit from the use of black-and-white pages.
Booklist reviews. (n.d.). Retrieved on May 7, 2016 from the online catalog of the Comsewogue Public Library [cplib.org] at http://contentcafe2.btol.com/ContentCafeClient/ReviewsDetailID.aspx?ID=2077018
Lyga, A. A. W. (2004). Graphic novels in your media center: A definitive guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Runton, A. (2005). Flying Lessons. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf.