Hippo Manchester
October 20, 2005

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Phonics Comics™, published by innovativeKids, 2005
By Lisa Parsons

Vol. 1 Issue 1: Monster Madness, written by Elizabeth Jaffe, illustrated by Steve Gray.

Vol. 2 Issue 1: Alien Alert, written by Elizabeth Jaffe, illustrated by Jim Steck.

Vol. 3 Issue 1: The Smart Boys, written by Brent Sudduth, illustrated by Geo Parkin.

Vol. 4 Issue 1: Penny Star, written by Brent Sudduth, illustrated by Stu Harrison.

When your child is learning to read, you throw every kind of reading material you can at him and see what sticks.

That means street signs, cereal boxes, the newly reissued Dick and Jane books, and now Phonics Comics™, a new series from Connecticut-based company innovativeKids.

Phonics Comics are aimed at kids age 6 and up, those who know some words by sight and can sound things out. A typical panel reads “Suddenly, the vacuuming stopped. ‘Ick! How do you like that? Those boys got GUM in their rug! I need peanut butter to get it out!’” The lettering is typeset, well-spaced and very clear. Each book has three stories and, on its inside back cover, a list of the more difficult words therein, for handy preview or review.

The tales in Volume 1, Monster Madness, are too complicated; “Camp Fear” has too many story levels not easily distinguishable by beginning readers, and “Closet Monster” suffers from illustrations and word bubbles that extend out of their frames into neighboring ones, which might be arty but not for 6-year-old comic book neophytes.

Volume 2, Alien Alert, is not much better but Volume 3, The Smart Boys, picks up the baton and seriously starts to run. Its illustrations are the best of the lot and its stories are catchy. Art-wise and word-wise the stories are clear and easy to follow but with plenty of action: the boys (the Smart brothers) create a turbo shopping cart, shrink themselves and extend daylight so they can stay up longer. Volume 4, Penny Star, appears to be intended as the girl equivalent of The Smart Boys, which means its stories are stupider. Catchy, but stupid if you ask me. Penny likes two things in life: fashion and shopping. So while the Smarts are harnessing sunlight over in Volume 3, Penny Star is busy acquiring meaningless consumer goods.

Ignore Monster Madness and Alien Alert. Seek out The Smart Boys and Penny Star. If your kid likes cartoons and visuals more than words, these books might boost his time spent with written words. If your kid already likes the written word, these books will be his first training-wheeled foray into the glorious world of comics and graphic novels.