Toon Books Level 3: Written and Drawn by Henrietta, Flop to the Top!
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 3 are for “advanced beginners”, with chaptered stories and the ability to change time and place in the telling. They’re recommended for those ages 5 and up. These titles are new out this month. (The publisher provided review copies.)
I greatly enjoyed Liniers’ previous Toon book, The Big Wet Balloon, so I had high hopes for this one.
It’s different. Henrietta has just been given a new set of colored pencils, so she sets out to make her own book. As she makes images, she narrates to her cat Fellini and her teddy bear what she’s doing and how she feels. Much of this volume is thus drawn in a faux-childish style, with big swathes of crayon colors.
I loved the emphasis on creativity, but I admit, I was disappointed not to see more of Liniers’ polished art. There are plenty of good tips, though, like being inspired by real-life events and the struggle to generate ideas and getting caught up in one’s work. Still, while I admire the message and suspect kid readers will find it inspiring, it didn’t have the re-readability I hoped for, nor did I want to spend as much time with the images.
Written and Drawn by Henrietta is also available in a Spanish edition. The publisher has posted preview pages.
by Eleanor Davis & Drew Weing
Wanda wants to be a star, but it’s her pet Wilbur that becomes famous as Floppy Dog. It’s bizarre to me, raised on more classical children’s books, to see our social-media-driven, stardom-obsessed society reflected so well in a kids’ tale, but nothing wrong with talking to kids about what they know.
The flat but colorful digital art is also modern and easily understandable, while the lessons are predictable: friendship over fame, family over TV. Wanda’s a bit too good to be true, since her moods aren’t very deep or realistic. It’s billed as a “modern-day fable”, and I found it somewhat shallow, with too much going on. Perhaps that frenetic chasing around is also reflective of today.
The publisher has posted preview pages.
Other Toon Level 3 Titles
The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson
Zig and Wikki written by Nadja Spiegelman and drawn by Trade Loeffler
Mo and Jo Fighting Together Forever written by Jay Lynch and drawn by Dean Haspiel