Monday, November 28, 2011

Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking

Horn Book (November/December, 2011)

"Underwater": In panel one, Benjamin Bear's pet canary and goldfish express a desire to see what's under the sea. In panel two we see Benjamin, in scuba gear, walking across the sand carrying the fish in a bowl and the bird in a cage. In panel three he is walking into the water. We worry: Will the fish escape; will the bird drown? But in the final panel we see the fish in a cage and the bird in the overturned, air-filled fishbowl. Four panels, eighteen words, one page, and a full story with desire, a journey, danger, and a "hey, presto" conjurer's denouement. In these twenty-seven single-page stories Coudray creates a set of visual haiku featuring Benjamin and a variety of his friends. An appended "Tips for Parents and Teachers" and the series name, "Easy-to-Read Comics," tell us that this is for emerging readers. The care given to binding, endpapers, and paper make it look like a picture book. The koan-like content suggests something like lateral thinking for tots. The whole enterprise lies somewhere between fuzzy-wuzzy was a bear and an introduction to fuzzy logic. It is original, deep-down funny, and, most important, the adventures are steeped in the rare quality of imaginative kindness. sarah ellis

No comments: