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Review: The Professor Garfield Toon-Book Reader

The other day, I saw a post on GNLIB responding to a request about children’s graphic novels that can be read online. One of the responses mentioned The Professor Garfield Toon-Book Reader, which is part of the Toon Books website. I have a feeling I already knew about this part of their site, but it never stayed on my radar. But summer vacation affords me the time to explore.

The Professor Garfield Toon-Book Reader
Recommended for ages 3+ (if reading to them).

So I clicked on the link and found that the Toon-Books website has 11 of their titles online for people to read for free. The site is easy to navigate. Click on a title and the title opens up. The navigation buttons are very simple. There are “back” and “forward” arrows to move through the pages. It has a button to go back to the “library” to choose another title. There is an option to start over as well as a link for teachers. The last button (though it’s in the middle) is the “Read to Me” button.

If you are reading on your own, it’s rather straightforward: Read at your own leisure and click on the forward button until you reach the end. But if you choose the “Read to Me” button there are a couple of things to note:

Each time something is read, the word bubble is highlighted with a red box. If it’s a sound effect (they’re read aloud too), then the words are highlighted with a red box. My one small complaint is that with the “Read to Me” button, you still have to navigate by yourself. When it finishes a page, you have to click on the “forward” button and then click “Read to Me” again. It would be more seamless if you had the option to auto-read, though I can see the benefit of leaving the button as is. Perhaps a second “auto-read” button would be useful.

I was a bit tired today, (too much sun), so when my children (who are all pre-readers—my oldest is only entering kindergarten in the Fall) asked me to “read a book on the computer,” I clicked on this website. I chose the “Read to Me” option (remember, I was tired. Too much sun!), and sat them on my lap as the computer read to them.
Engaged: Check.
Enjoyed the titles: Check (but we’ve read some Toon Books, so this wasn’t unexpected.)
Helped them better understand how to read a comic: Check. It occurred to me that when I read comics aloud to them, they don’t necessarily get the flow of how a comic reads. They aren’t getting how the word balloon on top is to be read first. But since the word balloons are highlighted, the children can see the order in which a comic should be read.

It’s also worth noting that the titles can be read and listened to in a few other languages.  English, French, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese.  

It would be nice if there were more titles available, but given that these are free, it’s a nice amount. So if you’re looking for some free e-books, then check out this website. And use it with your pre-readers and your emerging readers.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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