Geoffrey Hayes, author of the award-winning Benny and Penny series of easy-reader graphic novels, has a knack for telling warm, funny stories that show an expert attention to the childhood details. Patrick in a Teddy Bear’s Picnic and other stories features a series of short, stand-alone stories that follow little teddy bear Patrick as he goes on a picnic with his mother, endures the tyranny of nap time and stands up to Big Bear, the local bully.
Hayes’ soft colored pencil illustrations perfectly complement the cozy stories. As with Benny and Penny, Hayes balances out sweetness with humor and a nice sense of mischief. Unique lettering and word balloons help to convey the meaning and expression of certain phrases, making it a fun book to read aloud.
While some of Hayes’ other work deals with how children relate to each other, Patrick mostly focuses on the title character. The only other kid is the bully, Big Bear. I love the design of this character, who is both menacing and childish at the same time. He’s a big mean fuzzy teddy bear who makes trouble for Patrick but poses no real threat.
Page layouts are designed to aid young readers, with characters often speaking to each other as they meander through paths down and across the pages. This not only makes it easy to figure out the correct sequence of the word balloons, but also keeps the story lively and engaging.
Easy-readers in graphic novel form are well suited to meet the needs of different types of readers. This would be a good book to read aloud to small children, but I imagine this is also a good book for emerging readers to feel confident flipping through and choosing where they want to start. The detailed yet clear illustrations also provide readers with a lot of additional information to pore over, so it stands up well to multiple re-readings.
Patrick in a Teddy Bear’s Picnic and other stories
by Geoffrey Hayes
Toon Books, 2010