Written and Illustrated by: Thereza Rowe
Publisher: TOON Books
Format: Softcover, 9 x 6, 32 pages, Full Color, $12.95

Sometimes I find myself sitting in libraries or bookstores for hours. When at home, I find myself in similar activities, but, while not at the bookstore or library, I am snuggled up to my wiener dogs, who certainly offer their opinion on the books as well. Needless to say, I search through thousands of online databases and catalogs for just the right comic books and graphic novels to recommend to you.  Why?, you may ask. Finding a good comic book and / or graphic novel is like going on a treasure hunt for me. And FYI: I'm a pretty brutal pirate. I'm looking for gold. Nothing else.  

Recently I found some gold: Thereza Rowe's TOON Book Hearts. Living and teaching children's literature each and every day I often find it challenging to find such a high quality piece of golden treasure to bring into the classroom.  Sure, many of the books my colleagues and I bring into classrooms are pretty darn good. But it's only once in awhile we happen upon gold.

You may be asking: "What makes Rowe's Hearts a golden treasure, a step above the competition, while also being thoroughly age-appropriate for early readers?" The plot is simple. Penelope the fox has lost her heart. And her journey to find it is not so simplistic. As a kid I remember feeling like I sometimes lost my heart too. Sometimes it was because my dad had to go on a business trip. Sometimes it was because I didn't score a goal in a soccer game. Once in awhile it was because my brother was away at summer camp and I actually missed him (something I would never want to admit to him). As adults we must remember that the feeling of loosing your heart as a child is very profound and often overwhelming. Rowe's Hearts offers my now adult-self, parents, librarians, teachers, and any child's loved ones an engaging resource story that can help everyone look anew at feelings of loss and broken hearts. Broken hearts can be found. They are worth chasing, and they can be healed.  

Brilliant and despite its early reader focus every single human being can learn to be a better balanced and loving person from reading Rowe's Hearts.

And just between you and me: This is now my favorite TOON Book for early readers, for in its simplicity it is profound. TOON Books has certainly provided kids, adults, and every single caring soul their best text yet on learning to live with and be guided by a sacred heart.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Penelope has lost her heart and must figure out how to find it.  

Main Characters: Penelope, her heart

Themes: Problem-solving, Love / Hearts, Life-lessons, journey’s, relationships, self-reliance, thinking positively, realizations and epiphanies, treasure hunts, and new beginnings

Literary Pairing Suggestions: Any of Toon Books and Geoffrey Hayes' Benny and Penny series, Jack in the Box by Art Spiegeleman, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Hans' Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, Never Too Little to Love written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated Jan Fearnly, Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell

Some Teaching Recommendations Using the  Common Core Standards For Early Readers

Key Ideas and details
1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
* The number referenced above corresponds to the number used by the Common Core Standards (www.commoncore.org)

Lesson Idea for Early Readers in Grades K - 5


  • Poster board
  • Multiple copied or drawn & cut-out pictures of Penelope and her heart
  • Copied or drawn & cut-out scenes from the text
  • Copied or drawn & cut-out other, objects, characters, and events from the text
  • Pencils, pens, markers, and so on

Directions: After reading the book with your class, organize students into small groups (2 – 3 students per group).  Next, supply each group with a poster board divided into six sections (think three panels / pages when dividing the poster board).  And review the following steps in the directions.

1. On the board write and read the following directions: "Each of your groups will receive multiple cut-out characters of Penelope. You will also receive multiple copies of the different scenes, objects, events and places Penelope visits in the story."

2. Because your students may be very early readers in grades 1 – 3 it may be a good idea to read the story more than once, to build comprehension, and ask questions about predictions each time you reread the text. The second part of the directions can read: "Pretend your poster board is the storybook and each rectangle on your poster board a page from the story. With your friends, retell or recreate Penelope’s story to the best of your ability."

3. When you are done recreating and/or retelling the story take turns presenting your poster boards to the rest of the class.

4. After each group presents engage the whole class in a positive discussion about how each group interpreted and displayed the story on their poster boards. 


Dr. Katie Monnin is an Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of North Florida.  Besides the joy that comes with reading comic books and graphic novels, Dr. Monnin enjoys a Peter Pan-ish life of researching and writing her own books about teaching comics, graphic novels, and cartoons: Teaching Graphic Novels (2010), Teaching Early Reader Comics and Graphic Novels (2011), Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning (2012), Teaching Reading Comprehension with Graphic Texts (2013), and Get Animated! Teaching 21st Century Early Reader and Young Adult Cartoons in Language Arts (2013); Teaching New Literacies in Elementary Language Arts ( in press, 2014).  When she is not writing (or sitting around wondering how she ended up making an awesome career out of studying comics and graphic novels), Dr. Monnin spends her time with her two wiener dogs, Sam and Max.