Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fall in-Toon Books

Check out these brilliant new early reader releases from Toon Books

Written and Drawn by Henrietta. A Toon Book by Liniers. Toon Books, New York, 2015. Level 3. Highly recommended for ages 5-8.

"A book is like a world you can carry around with you." (frontpiece).

A gift of a box of colored pencils inspires young Henrietta to create her own book: The Monster with Three Heads and Two Hats. As Henrietta writes the story of Emmy, a girl afraid of the dark and eerie night noises, she herself grows frightened. However, both the author and her heroine confront their nighttime fears in this "monstrously" touching and funny story.

Liniers cleverly captures a story within a story while illustrating the writing process and demonstrating how authors struggle with word choice and writer's block. Small comic-style frames, complete with speech bubbles, are inserted into Henrietta's story. In these, young readers can see Henrietta, the author, at work as her story unfolds on larger, often two-page spreads. Henrietta tells the story of Emma's encounter with the monster in simple sentences and with brightly colored, child-like drawings..

Humorous techniques abound: the story and characters freeze as Henrietta struggles with "writer's block" (pp. 20-21), while Fellini, her cat, adds his gently sarcastic comments: "the messy closet-that's based on real life ...right?" (p. 23)

And don't forget to visit Liniers website, Por Liniers.

Flop to the Top. A Toon Book by Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing. Toon Books, New York, 2105. Level 3. Highly recommended for ages 5-8. 

One self-centered girl learns a lesson about the value of putting family ahead of self and fame.

Wanda the "wanda-ful" thinks she's a superstar. She posts a multitude of selfies (some with her fans who are really her objecting brother and sister), dresses up,  practices walking down a red carpet in her home, and watches celebrity news. She's way too busy imagining the flash of cameras and the roar of the crowds to play with her younger brother and sister.

Her selfie with Wilbur the dog goes viral when posted. But, she’s shocked to discover that the media attention is not for her:

“We want  FLOPPY DOG” roars the picture-snapping crowd outside her home

Wilbur’s fame and celebrity takes off as Wanda struggles to draw attention to herself. He’s even chosen to appear on Wanda’s favorite celebrity show The Star Show. After following Wilbur around on his night on the town, Wanda admits she’s his “number one fan” before beefy security guards drag her away. The passive Wilbur watches as she dragged away by two beefy security guards. Then bounds after her (after chomping up the contract).

The next day, when she settles in to her usual routine and brushes off her siblings request to play, the usually silent Wilbur, "wurfs" a gentle reminder. She switches off the TV to join her “new superstars” in play. The pictures she now takes are of her brother and sister. An lesson about the importance of family gently and humorously told.

The illustrators brilliantly use the inside front cover to display  “The Many Faces of Floppy Dog” giving the reader hilarious insight into Wilbur’s personality. Regardless of whether he's confused sleepy, happy or nervous, his expression is the same: a somber droopy eyed dog. The brightly colored illustrations capture the energy of the story's ebullient characters.

Eleanor Davis is the author of another Toon book, Stinky,  and co-author, with her husband Drew Weing, of the graphic novel, The Secret Alliance and the Copy Cat Crook. Visit her website to learn more about work.  Visit Drew and read online The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo

Back matter in both books includes author information and a valuable essay on tips for parents and teachers on "How to Read Comics with Kids." Visit the Toon Books website for a wealth of free materials to accompany all their books: cartoon makers, lesson plans, and more.

Thanks to Toon Books for giving me the privilege of reviewing their Fall 2015 lineup.