3 out of 4 stars
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"Up, up and away!" attributed to Superman in the 1940's radio serial
Toni the Superhero introduces Toni, a young black boy with extraordinary powers. The book showcases how Toni spends his off-days when he is not doing his superhero duties. Author R.D. Base and illustrator Debbie Hefke show Toni doing everyday fun activities, fourteen of them. This book is perfect for its target audience of very young readers: babies to preschoolers. The tots will see activities that they are familiar with (eating, playing and sleeping), learning moments (reading and drawing), leisure time (singing and dancing) and opportunities to serve others (doing household chores and rescuing animals).
The book has many positive subliminal messages for both the tutor and the child. Even important people such as superheroes like doing ordinary things. It is fun to spend time with family and friends. Helping others is a delight. Eating healthy and exercise are enjoyable. Color is no issue; black or white people can be whomever they dream to be.
The author is black and the mother of three young boys. We don’t have much information about the illustrator. I believe both are to be commended for the finished product. The pictures are vibrant, and even little kids can easily identify most of the activities being done. The repetitive text allows young readers to be familiar with the words and gain confidence in reading and phonics. The use of the word “like” is very clever; it is contemporary and denotes enjoyment.
I have read many glowing reviews of this book, and it was easy to jump on the bandwagon of admirers. However, a careful scrutiny revealed some areas where the book may be improved, especially as it is the first in the series.
The text was generally error-free, but I found two words which were erroneously capitalized: “superhero” on page 7 and “terrific” on page 25. Books for children, especially one for those just beginning to read, should be grammatically flawless.
I like the amateurish appeal of the drawings. Children can easily draw Toni themselves. However, as he is the main character whom kids will follow through the series, Toni’s look should be consistent. Toni is shown smiling throughout the book, even in bed. He is mostly shown with gleaming teeth, except on page 20. His yellow boots are shown with blue toecaps only on page 5.
Some items in the pictures are drawn out of realistic proportion. The microphone and apple juice container are too large; the cat is, too. The carrot is a miniature size compared to the broccoli flowers. The fruits which I presume to be oranges aren’t orange; the watermelon seems pale.
Many parts of Toni’s home are shown. His bed has a curtained window behind it, but this detail is missed on page 24. The window behind the kitchen sink is also inconsistently placed.
While most of the pictures obviously show what Toni likes to do, the “swim” and “dust” pages are not as clear.
While the book is silent, the lady in the house appears to be Toni’s mother. Maybe the author can consider including a father, too. A dishwashing daddy would send a resounding message. And giving Toni’s age could be a good addition.
I award this charming picture book 3 out of 4 stars. Without the exceptions noted above, it would surely merit the perfect rating. It is a wonderful book for little children to look at while their tutors read to them. It is also an appropriate starter book for preschoolers. Adults who need stress relievers can very well enjoy it, too. After all, who doesn't need a hero?
Toni the Superhero
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