Toon Books Level 1: We Dig Worms!, Hearts, Tippy and the Night Parade, Barry’s Best Buddy

We Dig Worms!

Toon Books ranks its publications, which are aimed at young readers, according to reading level, to make it easier for educators, librarians, and parents to find the right books. Level 1 are “first comics for brand new readers” that feature few images, short sentences, simple vocabulary, and easy-to-understand premises. They’re recommended for those age 3-8 or approximately kindergarten and first grade. We Dig Worms! came out this past spring; the others last year and the year before. (The publisher provided some of the following as review copies.)

Tippy and the Night Parade

Tippy and the Night Parade

by Lilli Carré

Adults aren’t the audience for these books, obviously, but a lot of adults will wind up reading them to kids, and they’ll prefer the ones that don’t make them crazy or bored. That’s why, of this batch, this was my favorite. It’s imaginative, clever, and rewards rereading to catch all the details.

Tippy wakes up in her bedroom, but it’s scattered with animals and the debris they’ve left behind. She can’t provide an explanation when her mother asks, but they work together to clean up before she settles down again for the evening. Then we get to see just what Tippy does on her “nightly stroll”, wandering past a fisherman, through the garden, across the pond, and down to the forest. She picks up a parade of followers as she goes, with a wide variety of settings and creatures pictured.

Tippy’s daytime pages are done in burnt orange, while the night are a lovely deep smokey blue. Tippy and the Night Parade is an attractive, classically done simple tale, particularly good for kids who love animals. It would be fun to talk with them about the different beasts shown and which ones they’d like to see.

The publisher has posted preview pages.

We Dig Worms!

We Dig Worms!

by Kevin McCloskey

I don’t get the fascination with dirt and yucky stuff many kids have, but I know it’s there. Instead, what I found most interesting about this book, non-fiction with a bunch of facts about the title creatures, is that it was painted on recycled paper bags, which makes the pink worms really pop against the faded tan background.

For a level one book, there’s a surprising amount of detailed information about worm anatomy, how they survive, and how useful they are. For instance, worms don’t have eyes, lungs, or bones — but they have extra hearts! McCloskey’s tone of silly enthusiasm is contagious, and We Dig Worms! answers common questions about this weird being, including why they come out after the rain. I learned a surprising amount. And both boys and girls are shown participating with the worms, a nice touch.

The publisher has posted preview pages.

Hearts

Hearts

by Thereza Rowe

I was pretty confused by what was going on here. Rowe’s cut-paper images are interesting but don’t exactly lend themselves to a coherent story. It’s something about a heartbroken fox who goes searching for the missing body part in the sea, chasing the shark and seagull playing keep-away with it. There’s a castle and a windmill and a horse and a city bus and a giant reptilian monster.

Hearts is very visual but not very coherent. A good choice, perhaps, for the wildly imaginative, artistic child who can fill in their own gaps.

The publisher has posted preview pages.

Barry’s Best Buddy

Barry's Best Buddy

by Renée French

I’m not a fan of French’s sometimes-grotesque style, but it’s refreshing to see a kids’ book with a lead character this grumpy. Barry, the round bird-thing, is taken through town by his buddy Polarhog. Polarhog promises Barry a surprise, which appears by the end of the book. In the meantime, though, we learn that Barry doesn’t like hats or ice cream (which seems crazy).

I liked this story more than I expected to because it’s one of those where something you see takes on new meaning when you get to the end and you realize its purpose. Barry’s Best Buddy is an affirmation of friendship, even for grumpy people.

The publisher has posted preview pages.

Other Toon Level 1 Titles

A Trip to the Bottom of the World With Mouse by Frank Viva — my favorite!

Chick & Chickie Play All Day! by Claude Ponti

Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith

Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today? by Agnes Rosenstiehl

Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons by Agnes Rosenstiehl

Jack and the Box by Art Spiegelman



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