Sunday, May 1, 2011

Patrick in a Teddy Bear's Picnic and Other Stories by Geoffrey Hayes

Geoffrey Hayes, 2010 Geisel Award winner for Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!, is back with a new Toon Book featuring Patrick, a new character that beginning readers will love. But while the book and the characters might be new, the enjoyment that Hayes and Toon Books brings to young readers is exactly the same.

The first story, A Teddy Bear’s Picnic, features Patrick enjoying a picnic in the park and his mother trying to keep up with him. Birds get chased, balloons get popped, boats get sailed, and bugs get away.  Even rain can’t spoil Patrick’s fun. He finds puddles and wet clothes, and Ma finds a way to make their picnic happen despite the rain.

In the second story, Patrick and Big Bear, Patrick meets the local bully who popped his red balloon on the picnic. Patrick is sent to the store for cookies, but Big Bear threatens to take away his dollar. Thanks to some simple advice from Ma, however, Patrick stands up to Big Bear. In the end when Ma asks, “So, did you run into Big Bear?” Patrick responds, “No! He ran into ME!”

After both of Patrick’s adventures, Ma says he needs a nap. Picnics and cookie-runs can wear a boy out!  These two nap stories, each only a page or two long, express the feelings of every child still stuck with nap time. Nap! Why?

Young readers will need to use all their story reading skills to find success. While the text is not overly difficult (Level 2 or Grades 1-2 according to Toon Books’ three-leveled scale for their books), Patrick’s actions move quickly, forcing readers to frequently make inferences between frames. Readers need to look closely within each frame as well. Patrick’s personality is on display, not in what he says, but in his facial expressions, his puddle jumps, and his speedy movements.

The book also offers parents and teachers advice on reading comics with kids. Several tips are included like using a finger to follow the action, how to make the story come alive with sound effects and role sharing, asking questions, and watching the action in the panels.

But in the end it’s not advice for grown-ups or Toon Books’ leveled system or their numerous online resources that make Patrick in A Teddy Bear’s Picnic a great addition for beginning readers. It’s the engaging characters and fun stories that will bring readers back for reread after reread.

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