4 out of 4 stars
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Teaching a child to read is one of the most gratifying experiences that a person can accomplish. It isn't just merely learning how to pronounce the words on a page, but it's a lifelong skill that will open doors of opportunity that only literacy can provide. Time spent snuggling up reading a story is well worth it when the theme is centered on a character who demonstrates good behavior for little ones to imitate.
In her book, Toni the Superhero, R.D. Base has put together highly colorful illustrations to draw the eyes to the page as a sentence is read out loud. The author has gone out of her way to make this as basic as possible to not intimidate those who are just discovering the joy of books. Toni, the main character, wears a brightly colored red cape, yellow boots, sunglasses, gloves and his blue super suit sports a capital T. The cover of the book gives a hint to some of the objects that he will encounter along the way.
I liked many different aspects of this book. First, I found Toni to be an excellent helper to society. He assists a cat out of a tree and is shown in a few scenes doing chores around the house. Instead of focusing on himself, he supports others. Toni's actions seem to be self-motivated, and he is always right where he should be without being asked. This gives the impression that no matter how young a person is, he or she can be useful. Second, Toni engages in positive activities. He eats healthy meals, swimming is his choice of exercise, and the reader sees him standing next to a stack of books that indicates he is a voracious reader. All of this reinforces the idea that there are options in life, so why not chose those that are beneficial? Toni looks slightly older than the children this book was designed for, and often, kids will look up to someone who they believe is advanced in age and want to be just like him.
There was only one word that I questioned as far as the comprehension for the age group in which this is intended. Toni is holding out his hand to give a cat the opportunity to climb down from a tree, and the author uses the word 'rescue.' I am not sure that a child would understand the depth of it, but I don't want to underestimate the intellect of our youth. With repetition of sight and sound, it could be possible to get the meaning across. A more simple sentence might have been: Toni likes pets to be safe. Other than that, I thought all the other word choices were appropriate, and I did not see any errors as the author has taken great care in writing and proofreading.
While this book has many good qualities, I would only offer a recommendation in that the author considers making it more interactive. If the idea is to inspire youngsters to read or repeat the phrases, then maybe the last word of each sentence could be hidden, and when the adult gets to that part of the sentence, the child would be able to lift up a flap to reveal the hidden word. I have done this with kids, and it seems to be a universal thrill to have a book that requires them to participate in this manner.
This book and more to follow are geared for those who cannot read on their own. For an older child who has already mastered more than simple sentences, this would not be for him or her. However, reading to a younger sibling using this material would be a great way to make use of this book. I am giving a 4 out of 4 stars for the ease with which this story is told to inspire children to not only learn how to read but how to be kind-hearted people.
Toni the Superhero
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