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Board Book Series Review: 'My First Comics'

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My First Comics: I'm Grumpy & I'm Sunny!

By Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Random House Books for Young Readers board books, January 2016

As the quality of graphic novels has improved to the point that the format (formerly known as “comics”) has now become a recognized literary genre, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the concept of a comic book series for pre-readers.

The two debut board books in this series, I'm Grumpy and I'm Sunny! are perfect to introduce toddlers to the graphic novel format. The characters are forces of nature (storm clouds, a sun, and a tornado) rendered in large, child-like colorful pen-and-ink drawings, with panels used sparingly (and many panels taking up entire pages of the books). The dialogue is also sparse, relying on the images and the expressions of the characters (in situations that will be easy for young children to relate to) to convey meaning.

 I'm Grumpy portrays a storm cloud who is easily irritated by birds singing while he is trying to sleep; rain falling; his “arm” getting stuck on a mountain top as he drifts by; and his “hat” flying off in the wind. In this state he only becomes more irritated when Sunny arrives with her perpetual smile. Grumpy responds with a tantrum of lightning and Sunny retreats, frightened. Then Grumpy not only feels grumpy, he also feels bad. So he rains on the ground to help a flower grow and then picks it to offer to his new friend.

 

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I'm Sunny features the sun as the main character, who is delighted when a red balloon drifts into her “hand.” Soon, Tizzy Tornado flies by and asks to hold the balloon, to which Sunny responds with the familiar, “Mine!” But when Sunny sees that Tizzy is angry and sad, she feels sad as well, and offers to share the balloon, resulting in a happy ending.

The simple art and dialogue in a board book format belies the depth and sensitivity of the universal experiences and emotions portrayed in this series, which are essential to the healthy development of young children. Kids and their grown-ups will enjoy these characters, the stories, and the simple wisdom they convey.

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Brother-and-sister team Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm are the creators of the Babymouse and Squish series. Jennifer is the New York Times bestselling author of The Fourteenth Goldfish and several highly acclaimed novels, including three Newbery Honor winners, Our Only May Amelia, Penny from Heaven, and Turtle in Paradise. Matt is a graphic designer and freelance writer. 

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