4 out of 4 stars
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Toni The Superhero by R.D. Base is a children’s picture book meant for very early readers. In this book we are introduced to Toni, who is a “Superhero,” and then we learn all the different things Toni likes. The book introduces the concept: Likes to do. (Toni likes to jump, likes to help, likes to eat.) Whether it is playing with friends or helping around the house, in costume or not, Toni is a Superhero.
The book usually has one simple, short sentence per picture, although there are a few times when there is a two-page picture accompanied by two sentences. The pictures are diverse and engaging, with a bright, colorful style. I would love to have a hard copy of this book, as I believe the side-by-side impact of some of the pictures would be more easily appreciated this way. This is, in large part, because of the occasional two-page pictures.
Remembering my childhood, the books that I read were dominated by blond-haired, blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked cherubs that looked nothing like me. I longed to be cute like they were instead of my boring, brown-haired, brown-eyed self. How I would have loved more children who looked like me. Representation is so vital in what children read. And this book offers up a welcome change from the picture books of my youth. Toni is dark-skinned, brown-eyed, rosy-cheeked, and wonderfully happy. And he is the hero, just because he is Toni! What child doesn't want to be special in some way? The fact that Toni is a superhero, whether or not he is in costume, shows that his identity doesn't change based on what he is wearing. I really liked that about this book.
The repetition of the phrase “Toni likes to” helps with word recognition, which is so critical in early readers. I can also see this being an excellent book for young ESL students. It is an easily accessible way to recognize proper sentence structure, and I can already hear the children delighting over the pictures.
There is virtually nothing to critique in this book; it is just fantastic. If I were to offer up some sort of suggestion for improvement for future books, it would be to also include diverse abilities to go along with the diverse ethnicities. Seeing a child in a wheelchair, or with other similar differences, would increase the impact of representation.
The pictures are almost perfect in their cartoon-like splendor. The only exception to this is the world’s largest juice box found on page 22. (It is as big as Toni’s torso!) However, this is so easily overlooked, and considering the style of the book art, it is not a big deal. It is large enough that kids may notice and giggle, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, and can even enhance the enjoyment of the book. I, for one, almost always have a running commentary about the pictures when reading to my nieces and nephews. It makes observing the pictures more fun.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars, and I look forward to more books from R.D. Base. I am eager to see how the author progresses the reading level of the Toni The Superhero books. I would recommend this book for early readers, and even non-readers to read with their parents and look at the pictures. ESL teachers would also benefit from having this as part of a supplemental library for those learning English.
Toni the Superhero
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