Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking
A Toon Book
by Philippe Coudray
Candlewick/Toon Books, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher
I love Toon Books. Their catch-phrase is "TOON BOOKS: Bringing new readers to the pleasure of COMICS!"
Benjamin Bear is identified as a Level Two: "easy-to-read comics for beginning readers." However, the sophistication of the humor makes it a fun book for readers of all ages and all levels.
Each page is a story. A short story, but a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end. They are funny stories -- almost sight gags, since there is so little text. One of my favorites is a three-panel story, "The Biggest Fish." Bear says to Rabbit, "A shark takes up as much room as a whale." In the next panel, Rabbit asks, "How?" In the bottom panel (2/3 of the page) Bear and Rabbit stand at the shore looking down into the ocean, where all the fish have retreated to the edges of the panel, leaving a whale-sized empty space around a shark. Another favorite is "The Maze." Bear gets lost in a maze, but luckily, he has an apple with him. If you're wondering, "How could an apple help him?" you have a sense of the quirky humor in these stories. (Sorry. You'll have to read it to find out how the apple gets him out of the maze. Make your prediction. Then go get the book!)
Because they are single-page stories, this book would make a great mentor text for kids working with Comic Life or the Comic Book app to create their own single-page stories. Courdray uses a variety of panel sizes and combinations in each of his comics, and it would benefit young writers to study his panel choices and think hard about why he made his choices.
Also reviewed at No Flying, No Tights: A Graphic Novel Review Website