Bridget Carrington reports for Armadillo on some innovative new titles for Key Stage 1 readers...
New from American publisher Blue Apple Books come two Balloon Toons titles aimed at Key Stage 1 readers. Combining simple(ish) text and typical zany cartoon strip set out and characters, they are aimed at early readers, and offer more zany humour than is often found in books for this age group. Their hard covers also give them a feeling of importance which will attract new readers.
My Friend Fred the Plant (Daniel Cleary and Kanako Usui) is a funny but gentle look at friendship, imaginary friends, and learning to understand others. A cat (in a hat) has a pet plant. He takes it out for a walk on a small wagon and meets another cat (on a skateboard and wearing a helmet) who scoffs at him, and words like ‘weird’ and ‘jealous’ are exchanged. Skateboard cat is left in charge of Fred while hat cat goes to get some water, and winds up caring for it as if it were his best friend! Clear, bright, funny illustrations add immeasurably to the very simple but punchy text.
The Radically Awesome Adventures of the Animal Princess is only one of several Balloon Toons titles written and illustrated by Pranas T. Naujokaitis. Three separate stories about the enterprising Princess show us how she rescues her royal parents from a Tri-wizard (don’t ask), overcomes the attack of the Rainy Day Cupcake Monster (a delicious tale), and earns enough money to purchase a Super-max Hoverboard 3000 by undertaking the Dragon’s Quests. There’s a secret to the Princess’s name, and her awesome powers, and it’s all to do with her pyjamas. The Dragon’s ‘quests’ are great, and may well give adults some ideas to encourage youngsters to help out with the household chores!
Altogether this is a splendid series, offering cool reading for new readers, and for those who prefer their words extra well supported by humour-laden cartoon strips.