By Philippe Coudray
32 pages, color
Published by Toon Books
One of the latest publications from Toon Books is Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, aimed at first and second graders. While I’ve always said that there’s a lot to love from the Toon Books line for older readers, it’s Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking where I feel like we’ve got a book that anyone from the age of 5 to 105 will enjoy. Philippe Coudray writes and draws a series of one-page gage strips starring Benjamin Bear and his friends, in a series of events that goes from a trip to the grocery store, to a visit from the man in the moon. There’s a wonderful ridiculousness about each story though, as Coudray goes for a goofiness that can’t help but make you laugh.
Coudray’s art is simple but effective; the pages have an easy to follow structure, and the art uses a handful of lines to make Benjamin and company look iconic and expressive. Coudray’s jokes sometimes rely on motion, too (like an inventive way to get a rabbit from one cliff to another that’s too far for it to jump), and I feel like he’s able to get those ideas across to his readers of all ages with ease.
Every now and then, Coudray’s punch lines aren’t so much humorous as they are sweet; a show of friendship, be it getting an apple off a tree or staying warm at night. I think that’s what ultimately helps Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking work so well; it’s not just fall-over laughing humor, but there’s a softer side that appears from time to time. It shifts the book from strictly humor to a well-rounded book. Go out and buy it for that little kid in your life… but don’t blame me if you open it up to take a look and end up reading the entire thing. It’s just great.