Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking

Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy ThinkingBenjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking
Written and illustrated by:
Philippe Coudray
TOON Books
Format: Hardcover/Softcover, 6 x 9, 32 pages, Full Color, $12.95/$4.99
HC: 978-1-93517-912-2/SC: 978-1-93517-925-2

Benjamin Bear is one unique bear, and he's going to be a star. He's witty. He's logical. He thinks outside the box. And he's captured my heart. In fact, I would bet on Benjamin Bear. He's about to capture a lot of hearts in his staring role of Toon Books' latest early reader comic book success.

Endearingly oblivious to his own uniqueness, Benjamin Bear outsmarts not only his friends, but also his readers. Presented with a familiar plethora of life's daily adventures, riddles, and puzzles readers will see themselves reflected in Benjamin Bear. What will he do when he wants to catch a fish, stay warm, or be a good friend? I know what I would do. You know what you would do. But Benjamin Bear has a better answer, every single time.

Benjamin Bear is more than charming and witty, however. He engages and teaches readers problem-solving skills grounded in the core content areas of Science, Math, Social Studies, and Language Arts. How do we think through problems, solve mysteries, reflect on precedents, and rationalize our answers?

Yes, how do we do all of those things? Benjamin Bear has some very, very clever and thoughtful ideas to share with you and your early readers.

In my first draft of this review I ended with that last sentence. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself that that was the last thing I wanted to say I couldn't. My conscious kept repeating, "Call Francoise. Tell her how strongly you feel about the educational value of this particular Toon Book."

If I were to place a call to my friend Francoise Mouly (Editorial Director of Toon Books) I would ask her to continue telling the stories of Benjamin Bear. Benjamin Bear feels like a friend, a good friend. He makes me think, sometimes twice. He makes me smile. And I miss him already.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Benjamin Bear has a unique and clever way to solve many daily life encounters that relate to all aged-readers

Setting: Benjamin Bear's world

Major Characters: Benjamin Bear

Themes: Problem-solving, thinking outside the box, friendship, cognitive processing in diverse content areas, and endearing characters

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Otto's Orange Day by Jay Lynch and Frank Cammuso, Squish by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm, Math-terpieces by Greg Tang and Greg Paprocki, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein, How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms? by Jane Yolen

Some Teaching Recommendations For Elementary Early Readers

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*

- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE

1. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.

10. Students whose first language is not English make use of their first language to develop competency in the English language arts and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum.

11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Lesson Idea for Elementary School Readers

An Elementary Lesson Idea for Benjamin Bear:

1. Read and discuss the first three Benjamin Bear adventure stories aloud with your students: ("A big fish," page 5; "Cold night," page 6; "Painting," page 7). "What problems does Benjamin Bear face, and how does he solve each of those problems?"

2. Choose a couple of other Benjamin Bear adventure pages. Make copies of the titles of each adventure and their first two or three panels and gutters. With post-it notes, block out the rest of the page and ask students to use that space to either (or both) write and draw their predictions for how they think Benjamin Bear might solve each of his daily adventures and problems.

3. One by one, discuss each of your selections and how students' predicted and hypothesized solutions to Benjamin Bears adventures using both words and images.

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.