The Marvelous Misadventures of Fun-Boy
By Ralph Cosentino
Viking Juvenille, $15.99
32 pages, ISBN 0670059617
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
It's tough to find books that kids and parents can have fun with together. Most children's books are (appropriately) geared totally toward the child, relegating the parent to the role of reader, while the few that actively engage parents as well as kids can be far beyond the age or interest level of the child. So it's refreshing to see Ralph Cosentino's picture book The Marvelous Misadventures of Fun-Boy provide an opportunity for real interaction between parents or caregivers and their preschool and early school-aged children.
Each two page spread tells a complete story featuring Fun-Boy, sans words, with four colorful sequential art panels. For example, the first three panels of "Trick or Treat!" show Fun-Boy repeatedly trick or treating at the same house with three different masks. In the fourth panel, wearing still another mask, the homeowner has clearly caught on to Fun-Boy's trick and rather than a treat, offers Fun-Boy an old shoe.
Other short tales include, "King of the Jungle" (three panels show Fun-Boy swinging through the jungle until a sudden fall, the last panel showing him in his room, fallen out of bed), and "Yummy Ice Cream" (Fun-Boy, sitting with his dog, enjoys a single scoop cone, until his friend sits down with a double scoop cone; eyeing her jealously, the dog eats his ice cream when he isn't looking). With twelve tales in all, kids' imaginations can run wild. While the book should find an audience with kids of both sexes, the rough and tumble slant of the book is all boy -- dinosaurs, fire fighters, swinging through the jungle, space aliens, and the like.
Fun-Boy has that recognizable spark of every kid in him -- a child in search of nothing but fun, lively imagination in full effect, and mischief around every corner. Ralph Cosentino's bright and vivid retro-styled illustrations call to mind a blend of Saturday morning cartoons and the atomic 50s style. The uncluttered panels keep the action clear and simple and illustrate the causes and effects of Fun-Boy's actions to young readers while supporting the development of their pre-reading skills.
The wordless stories offer parents and kids the opportunity to talk about the how and why of what happens between panels, as well as make up tales themselves, further encouraging conversation between kids and their grownups as they discuss the consequences -- intended and otherwise -- of Fun-Boy's adventures. My own preschooler spun wild tales inspired by Fun-Boy's antics, thrilled to turn the tables and tell Mommy a story for a change. She also delighted at having a graphic novel she could read herself, instead of trying to sneak off with mine like she usually does.
Cosentino, the author/illustrator of The Story of Honk-Honk-Ashoo and Swella-Bow-Wow (Viking, 2005), has written and illustrated a picture book with broad appeal -- in the stories themselves, the unobtrusive skill-building it offers kids (in that "tastes good and good for you, too" kind of way), and inspiration for parents and children to share thoughts, dreams, and ideas.
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