4 out of 4 stars
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Toni the Superhero introduces Toni who, besides being a superhero, is also an ordinary boy. The first page shows Toni pointing to the words “This is Toni” with one hand, and waving with the other. After establishing that Toni is a superhero who can fly, the remainder of the book deals with Toni’s likes: “Toni likes ...”, with an accompanying illustration.
The description of the book by author, R.D. Base, makes it clear that this is a book for very early readers. Its purpose is to teach children to read with help, and then to build their confidence as they read for themselves. The suggested age range is 0-4 years. No plotline is intended, but having introduced Toni, further books are planned which will develop the character, including, appropriately, Toni likes to Read! Debbie Hefke’s well-drawn illustrations show a recognizable little boy in everyday situations, and make it easy to guess the new word on each page. Toni likes to sweep, help and dust, but also to dance, sing and run. He is shown both working and playing with his mum and a variety of friends. At the end of the day, Toni likes to eat – healthily with fruit waiting on the counter for dessert – and to sleep.
I thought this book was excellent. In comparing it with others targeted at the same age group I found even more to like. Particularly for under-3s, a lot of books tend to have complex stories, often in rhyme form, which do not help with recognising words. In contrast, the repeated line “Toni likes to ...” builds confidence with just one new word per page. The illustrations are carefully thought out and show Toni playing with various boys and girls. Only one parent is shown - another may be somewhere on the scene one day, but for now children of one-parent families are not excluded. Also, the illustrations use strong basic colours, ideal for learning to recognise colours. In addition, there are very few series of books for this age-group, and having a familiar character through the first few years of reading could also be helpful to the young reader.
I had no dislikes, but in another children’s book I found instructions to the parent/guardian on methods of teaching children to read. I don’t think Toni the Superhero should include that in the book as it would prevent a child identifying it as entirely his or her property, but perhaps an associated website with helpful tips could be developed.
Overall, I rate Toni the Superhero as 4 out of 4 stars. My reason for the high rating is that the author has identified a gap in the market and filled it perfectly. She has produced a beautiful book that introduces a believable character, lays the basic groundwork for learning to read and, assuming the series progresses, will follow that through so that the young reader can gradually become independent. Instilling a love of reading in children is down to the parents or guardians, but this book is a valuable tool in accomplishing that. I think it will appeal particularly to parents, guardians, grandparents, and pre-school teachers. Within the target demographic, I cannot that there is anyone to whom it would not appeal.
Toni the Superhero
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