3 out of 4 stars
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I always think it is incredibly sweet when I see a child enjoying a toy broom, vacuum, or kitchen set. Unfortunately, when children reach the age at which they can participate in these chores for real rather than just sweeping at imaginary dust bunnies, they will no longer enjoy them. Children choose these toys because they want to emulate their parents, their primary role models. Kids also wish to be more like the superheroes they see in movies and on television shows; they wish to have the ability to fly or read minds. Toni the Superhero by R.D. Base is an enjoyable, beautifully illustrated, young children’s book that combines the activities of these two role models to subtly provide children with the idea that outdoor activities and indoor chores are fun rather than boring or tedious.
Toni is classified as a superhero with extraordinary powers. In Toni the Superhero young readers can see Toni enjoying everyday activities, activities they are also likely to enjoy. Sometimes he does these activities in his superhero costume, and sometimes we see him in more traditional children’s clothing. The book is written with simple, repetitive sentences that are used to list the various activities Toni likes to do. The illustrations, done by Debbie Hefke, are designed to match the activity discussed on each page. Hefke utilizes bright colors to attract attention, and each image really pops off the page.
This is a wonderful book for children who are just being introduced to reading. The short, simple sentences are just the right level of difficulty for kids who have little or no exposure to the written word. The only shortcoming I can see to this simple approach is that children won’t learn the words; they will memorize which words are read to them based on the pictures on each page. When Toni is seen with his stack of books, children are likely to remember that is the page that indicates “Toni likes to read.”
The second objection I have in regards to this book is that the back cover indicates Toni has “extraordinary powers,” and children should read the book to see what Toni does “when he’s not busy saving the world.” This gives the very distinct impression that the image of Toni flying means he actually can fly. When I finished reading this book, I was confused as to whether or not Toni can fly or if his ability to fly only exists in his imagination. Maybe Toni is just so happy with his life he feels like he can fly. I hope this will be clarified in future stories about Toni. If that is the case, Base should have either named the series Toni the Superhero or saved that title for a different installment where it may be more relevant.
In addition to the confusion that results from the information given on the back cover, there is one activity Toni likes that also creates some inconsistency. Every activity Toni engages in is an activity any child can relate to, except for Toni’s fondness for rescuing animals. I would classify this as a superhero activity since most children will not see themselves as capable of participating in such a heroic endeavor. Therefore, this activity was not in keeping with the other activities listed in the book.
Despite my protest about the odd inclusion of rescuing animals, I do appreciate that Base is encouraging children to care about animals. As the list of Toni’s likes continues, children are introduced to outdoor play and indoor chores. The inclusion of chores is a great way to instill in children the idea that chores can be fun and that everyone should do them. Even superheroes sweep, vacuum, and help their family members.
As a result of the confusion over how the term “superhero” is meant to be defined in the case of Toni and the odd activity of rescuing animals that didn’t fit into the same category as the rest of the activities, I will have to give Toni the Superhero only 3 out of 4 stars. The simple sentences and colorful illustrations should prove to be very attractive and engaging for children 1-3 years old. The lessons are subtly taught in this book so children aren’t likely to even notice there are lessons to be learned. Overall, the author’s goal in writing Toni the Superhero seems to have been achieved. There are just some minor areas of improvement to decrease confusion and increase consistency.
Toni the Superhero
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