________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008

cover Funny Stories.

Dominique Jolin & Carole Tremblay. Translated by Karen Simon.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2008.
96 pp., padded hardcover, $15.95.
ISBN 978-1-55389-051-5.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6.

Review by Keith McPherson.

**1/2 /4


“Binoo continues to pedal. He thinks he’s in the lead and far ahead of Toopy.

But Toopy’s back in the race…
Can Toopy, the most spectacular racer in the world, come in second?
Of course NOT! Toopy and Binoo are now neck and neck. It looks like there will be a tie.
Who will win the big race?”

This collection of four imaginative stories written by Dominique Jolin, with illustrations taken from the children’s television series, Toopy and Binoo (produced by Spectra Animation Incorporated), introduces and explores early childhood themes of friendship and growing up. The two characters, Toopy and Binoo, are faced with solving several challenges paralleling those faced in the daily lives of many young children. For example, the characters learn about sharing food, competing in and winning a bike race, completing the story for a book missing its last page, and helping to take care of a sick friend.

internal art

     All four of the stories have a simple, but age-appropriate story tension and plot. However, after I watched several TV episodes of Toopy and Binoo, I noted that the transitions to and from Toopy and Binoo’s dreams and imaginings are much smoother and effective in video format. On the other hand, like the TV episodes, the book’s visuals are colourful and vibrant, are congruent with the text  (printed in the book and spoken in the show), and convey a great deal of motion and emotion.

     In all of the stories, Toopy and Binoo use their imaginations to dream up a fascinating story and/or solve a challenge. For example, Toopy’s uses his imagination to whisk himself away into outer space to ask a dinosaur-like creature (who is reading a book on a floating couch) if he can have a banana for his friend Binoo. In another story, Binoo brings back a cloud, the sun, and the moon in an effort to bring comfort to his sick friend, Toopy. Although adult readers may feel that the imaginative and dream-like sequences might be too far removed from preschoolers’ and Kindergarteners realities to be understood, I read this book to several five and six-year-olds who  were able to easily suspended their concepts of reality and who were able to follow the ‘dreamy’ story line. In fact, Toopy’s and Binoo’s dreams will likely stimulate young readers, writers and illustrators into dreaming and imagining their own stories!

     Parents, daycare workers, and teachers could use these stories to develop children’s imaginative thinking and problem solving skills and to develop children’s prediction reading strategies. For  example, in the first Toopy and Binoo story, the adult can encourage the child/children to imagine and predict an ending for the missing page of Toopy’s story. In the second story, children can be asked to use their memories and/or imagination to problem solve and find solutions for helping Toopy get his friend Binoo a banana to eat. The third story can be used to open discussions on how we can take care of our bodies and our friend’s bodies when we and/or they are sick. And finally parents, teachers, and caretakers can use the fourth story to develop children’s prediction reading strategies (the child/children can be asked to predict methods of travel Toopy might use, and/or ways that his form of transportation might break down).

     Although the book will appeal to most four to six year olds, they will not be able to independently read the advanced vocabulary and sentence structures. Thus, most children will require an adult to read this text; making these stories great read alouds.

     Although I found that the vibrant visuals of these Toopy and Binoo stories only partially captured the magical dream-like state of the television versions, the young children to whom I read these stories enjoyed them and responded to them just as passionately as the TV episodes. Furthermore, the advanced text structures and story lines make these stories particularly good read alouds that would appeal to children who regularly watch and enjoy the TV version of Toopy and Binoo. Finally, this collection can be used by teachers, parents and caretakers to: 1. introduce and explore early childhood issues of sharing with, and caring for, friends, 2. develop children’s prediction reading strategies, and 3. just plain have some imaginative and creative, discussions, fun and laughs.

Highly Recommended.

Keith McPherson has been a primary and elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in BC since 1984 and is currently the coordinator of the Language and Literacy Education Research Centre at the University of B.C.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.