Toon Books Level 2: The Big Wet Balloon, Lost and Found, Patrick Eats His Peas, Benjamin Bear

The Big Wet Balloon

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 2 are aimed at “emerging readers” with simple sentences, the use of repetition, and basic comic format used. They’re recommended for those age 4-8 or approximately first and second grades. This grouping contains most of Toon’s series, with only one non-continuing character book in this batch. (The publisher provided some of the following as review copies.)

The Big Wet Balloon

The Big Wet Balloon

by Liniers

Two kids are pondering what to do on a rainy Saturday. Matilda’s enthusiasm is inspiring. She loves Saturday, no matter the weather, and is ready (when suitably attired) to run out into it. Younger sister Clemmie, not as verbal, is more reticent, focusing on the wetness of the weather. The two girls together are adorable, and I could get lost in the delicate art.

The borderless panels — they’re oval, as though peering through a portal or parted clouds — and cream-colored paper give this the immediate look of a classic storybook. I felt as though this was an instant favorite, something to go next to A.A. Milne on the shelf. I wanted to read it over and over, it appealed that much to the kid in me. The author based it on his two daughters, and it shows, because this authentic a work would require that kind of intimate observation.

The Big Wet Balloon is also available in a Spanish edition. The publisher has posted preview pages. Here’s one of them:

The Big Wet Balloon by Liniers

Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas!

Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas!

by Philippe Coudray

This bear is really growing on me. The comic strips in his books are exceptionally creative. He and his rabbit buddy play with physics to achieve perfectly logical but unexpected outcomes, and it’s all drawn with great action and humor, filled with imagination.

Whether racing around the forest or helping out other woodland creatures (who often behave in quite human ways) or weirdly, herding sheep, Benjamin’s actions are silly and good-natured. Sometimes, they’re even metaphysical. Each page is a separate strip, making for easy pick-up-and-put-down reading. The best way to realize the strip’s quality is simply to read it. Here’s a sample:

Benjamin Bear by by Philippe Coudray

The publisher has posted preview pages. The previous volume was Fuzzy Thinking, and there is another Benjamin Bear book, Brain Storms!, that I haven’t had the pleasure of reading yet.

Benny and Penny in Lost and Found!

Benny and Penny in Lost and Found!

by Geoffrey Hayes

Benny and Penny, sibling mice, are cute and approachable, softly portrayed in colored pencil and acting like a couple of real kids. That may explain why they’re the biggest Toon franchise. This is their fifth book from the publisher. (See below for the others.)

Benny’s in a bad mood because he lost his pirate hat. He snaps at his younger sister and doesn’t listen to Mommy’s good advice. He keeps insisting he’s the leader, in spite of Penny’s wiser choices. Older readers may find that light political allegory the most entertaining bit of the book.

The backyard fog and the way it creates visual misconceptions is a key element, well illustrated by Hayes. His figures are also active, giving Lost and Found! an animated sense of flow during the two’s little adventure, out and back home.

The publisher has posted preview pages.

Patrick Eats His Peas

Patrick Eats His Peas

by Geoffrey Hayes

Also by Hayes, this is the second Patrick book, containing four short incidents. Beyond the title story, “Patrick Helps Out”, “Patrick Takes a Bath”, and “Patrick Goes to Bed”, making for a full day.

Patrick’s not as nice as the mice — he seems older, more determined to do things his way. The battle over eating something good for him that he doesn’t care for is a universal one many readers can relate to. I hope they don’t get too many clever ideas from Patrick’s attempt to hide food he doesn’t like, although the eventual compromise with his mother is clever.

When Patrick helps, it’s with his father doing yard work, which Patrick messes up in several ways. This book does tend to rely on traditional gender roles — Mom cooks inside, Dad works outside — which may bother a few readers. And the comedy is gently old-fashioned, along the lines of a Dennis the Menace, although I suspect much of the audience will sympathize with the kid’s behavior, particularly when Patrick makes a huge mess in the bathroom or draws out bedtime as long as possible.

The publisher has posted preview pages.

Other Toon Level 2 Titles

Maya Makes a Mess by Rutu Modan

Nina in That Makes Me Mad! by Hilary Knight

Patrick in A Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Other Stories by Geoffrey Hayes

Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss

Stinky by Eleanor Davis

Benny and Penny by Geoffrey Hayes



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