Toon Books puts out wonderful graphic books for beginning readers. This batch are all 2011 Cybils nominees in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category.*
Lilly isn't really all that silly. Like most kids, she's endlessly creative, able to entertain herself with just a few props. In Silly Lilly: What Will I Be Today?, Lilly sets off down another career path for each day of the week. On Monday, she's a cook discovering colorful vegetables, on Tuesday, a city planner for bugs, on Wednesday, a musician banging out tunes on a xylophone, and so on. But no matter who she's pretending to be, Lilly is always herself. Hooray!
Whew! Lots of things make Nina mad, many of which beginning readers (and their parents) are sure to relate. Here are just a few things that tick her off: "When you don't let me help." "When you let me pick and I pick the wrong thing." "When you promise and then you forget." Each complaint is accompanied with amusing graphics showing Nina in action, trying to help diaper her baby brother, choosing between the park or the museum, lusting after an ice-cream cone. The book ends with Nina acknowledging that she feels better when she can express how she feels. Hilary Knight of Eloise fame penned the illustrations, capturing Nina in all her spunk.
Patrick is a bear cub who goes on a picnic with his mother and has other adventures, including facing down a scary bully, in this charming story collection. Like the mother in the Little Bear series, Patrick's mom is unfailing reassuring as her cub gets into scrapes. When Patrick scares away birds from a fountain, his mother reminds him that the park is for birds too. "I don't want them pooping on my head," Patrick replies, a response that will set young readers giggling. Author/illustrator Geoffrey Hayes won the 2010 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award for his Benny and Penny in the Big No-No.
Another Toon book about a bear, but this one is no cub. The invention of Frenchman Philippe Coudray, Benjamin is a full-grown bear with a decidedly unique perspective on life. Each "chapter" is a page long and ends in a visual joke of some kind. In "Help Your Friends" a rabbit offers to help Benjamin as he washes dishes under a waterfall. Benjamin thanks him and picks up the rabbit, using his fur to dry the dishes. Or, my favorite, "Painting" in which Benjamin paints a portrait of a cow. After the cow laughs at the amateurish finished product, Benjamin bashes him with the painting with the result that the cow and painting now look exactly alike. With its more sophisticated, offbeat humor, this book would be a good choice for older kids who want meatier fare yet are still struggling with their reading.
*I am a first-round panelist in this category, and this review reflects my opinion only.