by Leigh Stein

When I’m not fielding phone calls for TOON or dressing up like Penny the mouse to go on tour with Geoffrey, I teach drama to elementary school-aged children in Brooklyn. This June, I directed Stinky, the play, with twenty second graders, for a spring show on the theme of tolerance.

I’ve always loved this book’s message about making friends with unusual characters. Many of my students are immigrants, or the children of immigrants, and they hail from all different parts of the world–Russia, China, Burma, Israel, India, and Pakistan. Most of them are bi- or tri-lingual. While rehearsing the play, I watched them make insightful connections between the friendship Stinky and Nick ultimately share, and the friendships they have in their own lives, with other children from wildly different cultural backgrounds.

My cast included seven rats, three possums, two slugs (played by twin brothers in a tour de force of slowness), three birds, two narrators, a toad, a boy (Nick), and a monster (Stinky). My colleague, Erin Lynn Welsh, designed the set (with trees painted by our fifth graders!) and the masks, which the cast made out of simple paper plates. I played a tree in the background (can you find my hat?), whispering line prompts when necessary.


Dr. Michele Berg of the Family Service and Guidance Center in Topeka, Kansas was recently introduced to the TOON Books collection and our unique storytelling format. As the Director of the Center for Learning Disorders, Dr. Berg was quick to recognize the value that our books hold not only for beginning readers in general, but for struggling beginning readers in particular. Here’s her response after reading a few of our titles:

These are excellent and I am so happy to know about the books and all of the classroom resources on your website! I plan to meet with the literacy coaches from Topeka Public School District later in August when they return to duty. I will share these books and the website with them as I think this format will work very well with reluctant and/or struggling readers.

I am also sending your email/the link to your website to ERC Resource and Referral Center here in Topeka. This is an organization that provides training to teachers in this region. I know they will be very interested in the books as well as the resources/activities on your website.

I will also be introducing these books to the staff in our Early Childhood Intervention Program here at Family Service. I particularly appreciate the conflicts between the characters that are portrayed in the Benny and Penny books … our staff will enjoy reading these with the younger children and talking about the situations. I will introduce the upper level books to our staff in the Youth Intervention program … Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever and Otto’s Orange Day will be great for that group … older children who have trouble reading and also trouble resolving conflicts.


Parents and children can now enjoy the spunky and whimsical Silly Lilly in the Four Seasons anywhere with the convenience of an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. With narration available in English, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish, parents can entertain and educate children with this critically acclaimed easy reader.

Selected as a Best Children’s Picture Books by Publishers Weekly when it was released, Silly Lilly in the Four Seasons by Agnès Rosenstiehl (recipient of the prestigious Grand Prize for Children’s Books of the Société des Gens de Lettres) was described as “perfect for new readers” by the School Library Journal. “Comic moments…draw us directly into Lilly’s emotional world, where attention is routinely paid to everything, from a lowly dandelion on up,” remarked the eminent critic Leonard S. Marcus in a starred review.

Unique features of the TOON Books iPhone/iPad app include:

• Lively narration that brings the story to life. Onscreen text and highlighted speech balloons help readers make associations between the words they hear and see. It is the closest experience to being read a book that any app can deliver. As with all TOON Books, repeated use builds reading fluency.

• The carefully chosen vocabulary is recommended by educators for young children; the app is designed specifically for young readers for ease of use, with easy-to-read large type and pages that can turn automatically or be swiped back-and-forth manually for a true feeling of turning the page.

• Narration is available in five languages – English, Spanish, French, Russian and Mandarin Chinese. The interactive options immerse young readers in the story, making this a great tool for both English Language Learners and very young English speakers learning a new language. There’s no better way to introduce a child to a new language than with the universal language of comics.

Silly Lilly is the American counterpart to Mimi Cracra, the star character of over 100 books and a television show in France. The TOON Books line recently expanded with hardcover bilingual French/English editions published in France by Casterman, the most recent of which is Silly Lilly in the Four Seasons (more information at

TOON Books’ Editorial Director Françoise Mouly (who is also Art Editor of The New Yorker) launched the new line of comics for young readers to overwhelming praise.Vetted by educators and librarians, the collection is a breakthrough in books for early readers, now used in K-2 classrooms throughout the US. The Silly Lilly app follows Jack and the Box by Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer-Prize author of MAUS (featured in the LA Times and Apple’s April 2010 “What’s Hot”, and among the 10 ten apps in France upon release) as well as Little Mouse Gets Ready, by Jeff Smith, the author of the bestselling Bone books, as the third iPhone/iPad app released by TOON Books and iStoryTime, the leader in iphone children’s books.


We were delighted when School Library Journal proposed to co-sponsor a TOON BOOKS SWEEPSTAKES.

The entry form for the Sweepstakes ran from April 22, 2010 to June 22, 2010 and was open to both academic and public librarians, as well as teachers from all across the country.

We were even more thrilled when we learned of the overwhelming response: Over 2,300 teachers and librarians entered, all eager for a chance to win a visit by Geisel Award winning author Geoffrey Hayes, along with original artwork, or a FREE COLLECTION of all our prize-winning books.

And now that we’ve notified the winners, we’re pleased to pieces at seeing their explosion of joy:

The Grand Prize winner is Ann Niederkorn from Graham & Parks Alternative Public School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When notified of her luck, she exclaimed, “HOLY MACKEREL, BATMAN!!! I am so stoked, I can’t even tell you! This is fabulous news!!! My little guys really love the TOON comics, and I’m sure they’ll be psyched to meet a real, live TOON author/artist.” We love the enthusiasm Ann, and Geoffrey can’t wait to meet the young readers in your school one-on-one.

The 50 other winners are:

Elizabeth Hester, Irondale Middle School, Birmingham AL

Kimberly McCloud, LRSD-Williams Magnet School, Little Rock AR

Mim Gottschalk, Rancho Mirage Public Library, Rancho Mirage CA

Joanna Ward, Temple City Library, Temple City CA

John Thomas, Spanish Peaks Library District, Walsenburg CO

Marcia Berbeza, Pulaski Elementary School, Wilmington DE

Casey LaPlante, East Windsor Middle School, Broad Brook CT

Roseanne Russo, Marion County Public Library System, Ocala FL

Margaret Troxler, The Epstein School Goldstein Media Center, Atlanta GA

Nicole Annis, Keosauqua Public Library, Keosauqua , IA

Karen Burke, Naperville Public Library, Naperville IL

Katharine Fitzpatrick, Disney Magnet School, Chicago, IL

Mary Evans, Morgan Elementary, Hutchinson KS

Leslie Bahn, St. Martin’s Episcopal School, Metairie LA

Jayne Dudley, Kindercare, Canton MA

Janet Browning, Pointers Run Elementary School, Clarksville MD

Caryn Bartone, Salem-South Lyon District Library, South Lyon MI

Jackie Lannin, Hallie Q Brown Community Center, St. Paul MN

Anna Ruhs, Starkville-Oktibbeha County Public Library System, Starkville MS

Phyllis Danko, Wiggin Memorial Library, Stratham NH

Barbara Kreyling, North Plainfield High School/Middle School, North Plainfield NJ

Michele Beddow, Apshawa Elementary School, West Milford NJ

Nicola McDonald, Brooklyn Public Library Washington Irving Branch, Brooklyn NY

M.L. James, William B. Ward Elementary School, New Rochelle NY

Martha Alcott, Chappaqua Public Library, Chappaqua NY

Jean Berotti, Island Park Public Library, Island Park NY

Mildred Said, Queens Library/South Ozone Park, South Ozone Park NY

Brenda Ballinger, Adams County Public Library, West Union OH

Sally Klepper, Avon Lake Public Library, Avon Lake OH

Rhonda Hancock, Banks Elementary School, Banks OR

Elizabeth Davis, Lackawanna County Children’s Library, Scranton PA

Sharon Lux, St. Michael’s Country Day School, Newport RI

John Hewell, Oconee County (SC) Public Library, Walhalla SC

Lori Finger, Hilton Head Preparatory School, Hilton Head Island SC

Karen Wiechmann, Siouxland Libraries, Sioux Falls SD

Karen Cushing, Pleasant View School, Memphis TN

Kathleen Judd, Hazelwood Elementary School, Clarksville TN

Theresa Rogalski, Wilson Elementary School, Houston TX

Norma Martinez, East Point Elementary School, El Paso TX

Theresa Zelasko, Southwestern University A. Frank Smith Library Center, Georgetown TX

Martha Blackmon, Rusk High School, Rusk TX

Gene Nelson, Provo City Library, Provo UT

Dawn Pleet, Bennett Elementary School, Manassas VA

Angie Rachels, Rockbridge Regional Library, Lexington VA

Ellen Proefrock, Larrymore Elementary School, Norfolk VA

Sherry Clem, Van Wyck Branch Library, Norfolk VA

Mary Alice Powers, Windsor Middle/High School, Windsor VT

Terry Reeder, Cedar Way Elementary School, Mountlake Terrace WA

Jackie Parker, Lynnwood Library, Lynnwood WA

Jennifer Wharton, Matheson Memorial Library, Elkhorn, WI

And here’s a sampling of their reaction:

“This is wonderful. Thank you so much… With school out for the summer we get all the kids coming here more often than they do during the school year so the books will truly be appreciated. Again, thank you very much.”- John Thomas, Spanish Peaks Library District

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! We certainly shall enjoy the books. Our patrons are very excited about this series. They are on this year’s school summer suggested reading lists! We can’t thank you enough. This summer’s program is “Make A Splash-Read” You will indeed “make a BIG splash with our readers” ! Thank you for helping make our graphic novel collection a spectacular one for beginner reads.” – Phyllis Danko, Wiggin Memorial Library

“Wow! Wow! Whee hoo! Yippee- Thanks!!!!!! I am very excited to be a winner in your contest- we are mad hot for your older kid books also, so this is very wonderful.” – Jackie Lannin, Hallie Q Brown Community Center

“This is VERY exciting–thank you so much! I just spoke to the head of our Children’s Room and she is thrilled to add these to our collection.” – Martha Alcott, Chappaqua Public Library

“Wow!! Thank you so much and I am a lucky guy!” – Gene Nelson, Provo City Library

“My students will be thrilled when they come back to school next fall!” – Mary Evans, Morgan Elementary

“Thanks so much! … We have several titles in our collection and they are gaining in popularity as patrons discover them. I’m very excited to be able to add these titles! Thanks again.” – Mim Gottschalk, Rancho Mirage Public Library

“Thank you so much…I am thrilled! I can’t wait to share them with my students!” – Ellen Proefrock, Larrymore Elementary School

“Glad I checked my email today! How exciting to be a winner.” – Janet Browning, Pointers Run Elementary School

“Wow. I am really excited to be able to add these title to our collection.” - Karen Burke, Naperville Public Library

Jennifer Wharton and the Matheson Memorial Library even blogged their excitement on their library’s website! Check it out!

All winners will also be announced on the School Library Journal blog “Good Comics for Kids” by Brigid Alverson at

Congratulations to all our winners, thanks to all our entrants, and keep up the contagious reading enthusiasm!