Feed Me Books Friday: Not Your Average Picture Book

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kid-Friendly Comics

When we think of comics, most of us will either think of super-heroes like Spiderman or the Sunday funnies. Perhaps you’ve even been introduced to Captain Underpants or the Wimpy Kid series aimed at tweens. But if my experience is any indication, you may not yet have heard of the Toon series of books for emerging readers. After reading about the series in a Lit Lad review, I was thrilled to receive two Toon books from Candlewick, the publishers of Toon books, for our own review!

Appropriate and Accessible

The major plus-points of this series are that the content is appropriate for preschoolers and the language is accessible to early readers. The plot lines, while not necessarily action-packed thrillers, are relatable to youngsters, which is vital in engaging them as readers. Most preschoolers don’t have the cognitive ability to imagine in the abstract just yet. Their pretend-play is usually variations of their own experience or things they’ve witnessed. Appealing books will fit this description as well: they are imaginative enough to be entertaining, but not so fanciful that they are hard to grasp. The text of Toon books is thoughtfully crafted to be within the grasp of those children beginning to read independently. They are divided into 3 levels, characterized by number and complexity of words and sentences, complexity of plot-line, and comic panels per page.

Unique to the Bookshelf
The titles we received are Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today? (Level 1) and Patrick in A Teddy Bear’s Picnic and other stories (Level 2). Silly Lilly’s plot line highlights the options open to an adventurous yet indecisive young girl and provides practice in the days of the week. B is not quite ready for independent reading, and the text was pretty simple for a read-aloud, but he enjoyed Lilly’s experimenting since he thoroughly enjoys role-play pretend games. Patrick’s stories include the title picnic story as well as Patrick Has a Nap, and Patrick and Big Bear. The title story follows the many adventures of Patrick and his mother on their picnic. Any mom who has tried to sit still for more than 3 minutes will relate. While their picnic is rained out, Patrick and Ma still enjoy the day together. Patrick Has a Nap is a shorter sequence demonstrating his strong will to avoid his nap which later catches up with him. Patrick and Big Bear features Patrick’s challenge to face Big Bear, a local bully. Patrick stands up to Big Bear’s bullying by roaring like a dragon, which while effective in the context of the story, might warrant a little discussion with a young reader to discuss what other appropriate responses might be. I appreciate that Patrick looks for a solution with his parents’ help and feels empowered at the end of the story. B enjoyed this one as a read-aloud more thanks to the slightly more complex language, plot structure, and illustrations.

Making our Own Comics

Toon books has an extensive array of resources on their website, which you should check out whether you purchase the books or not. We first checked out the comic-creator tool. B had decided that he wanted to imagine what he would be like Silly Lilly, so he chose an animal to represent himself and a background related to his current fascination with explorers. Creations can be saved or emailed. Other tools at the Toon site include an interactive reader featuring several of the Toon titles and teacher lesson plans correlated to many titles. I also looked up another comic generator I used to use in my classroom. At Make Beliefs Comix, you can choose the number of panels, add various characters, backgrounds, and objects, and then print or email your creation. Since the image was not save-able, I used the screen capture tool and pasted it into a photo program to save.
 Appropriate for preschoolers, primary grades. I hope you’ll go check out Toon Books for yourself and a reader in your life that could use a change of pace or a little extra motivation.

Disclosure: I am grateful to Candlewick, the publishers of Toon books for providing me with two books and the opportunity to review them. The opinions expressed are mine alone and I received no other compensation for this review.
Comic call-outs photo courtesy arichards63 on flickr.


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