Philippe Coudray loves drawing comics, and his many children's books are often used in the schools of France, his home country. In fact, his work was chosen by elementary school students for the prestigious Angouleme 'Prix des Ecoles'. Philippe has a twin brother, Jean-Luc who is also a humorist, and they relish any opportunity to collaborate on children's books and comics.
Kirkus Reviews (07/15/2011):
Benjamin Bear deals with life in his own straightforward way.
When Benjamin's friends goldfish and canary both express a desire to see "what's under the sea," Benjamin comes up with a way to grant their wish: He puts goldfish in canary's cage and canary in the up-ended goldfish bowl full of air. Both enjoy their trip. When Benjamin can't quite bring himself to leap off a cliff wearing his hang glider, he enlists an unfriendly dog to chase him over the edge. When friend fox won't play tennis with him, Benjamin lobs the ball at fox's head...and it comes right back, just like in the game. In single-page skits of two to seven panels each, Benjamin solves problems and entertains himself and his friends with inimitable style and seriousness. Toon Books continues its new (and award-winning) series of early readers in graphic-novel format by introducing American audiences to Coudray's eccentric Benjamin Bear. In France, he's known as Barnabe, and he's starred in 12 collections for young readers since 1997. Courdray's droll vignettes in a muted palette will be the perfect enticement for those with a visual sense of humor who are just starting to read.
A visually formatted joke book to inspire thinking as well as laughs. (Graphic early reader. 4-6)
(COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)Publishers Weekly (09/05/2011):
Anthropomorphized animals are nothing new in children's literature--least of all anthropomorphized bears--but the antics of Benjamin Bear feel unique. This French comic book, now translated into English, follows Benjamin Bear through a series of eccentric short stories that each fit one page. Benjamin goes through his life doing things one oughtn't to do but having no understanding of why. For instance, he sees his friend the fox chopping bricks in half, karate style. Benjamin Bear says he can do that, too, but makes the fox chop some more bricks unable to understand that he, Benjamin, ought to be the one chopping the bricks himself. This leads to some silly, lighthearted humor. At other times the comics turn to rumination, as when the bear and the rabbit watch the sun go down together. They light a candle, and it, too, goes out on them, leaving them in darkness. The words are mostly fairly simple, and it's aimed for preschool and above. All of the pictures are in color, and while they're not overly detailed, Coudray is meticulous with background landscape. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)
Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly, LLC.Booklist (10/15/2011):
Grades K-2 The latest entry in the TOON Books line of emerging-reader comics pushes a whole new sort of envelope: outr' humor for the early grade-school set. These single-page strips starring a peculiar bear and his critter pals will feel fresh to young readers not just because the jokes rely on incisive understatement rather than broad-stroke exaggeration but also because the humor requires a bit of work to arrive at the surprising, sometimes sophisticated, and yet rarely out-of-reach punch lines. Some of the gags may fly over kids' heads at first, but the pleasure of finding the funny by deciphering visual cues will keep them coming back. The final page, in which Benjamin Bear explains that he would never read a comic book-it is a rather boring thing for a star of a comic strip to do to his readers-is an especially elegant use of a handful of words in three compact panels, and it demonstrates exactly what makes comics such a winning bet for kids. They're just plain fun, see. (Copyright 2011, American Library Association.)Horn Book Magazine (11/01/2011):
"Underwater": In panel one, Benjamin Bear's pet canary and goldfish express a desire to see what's under the sea. In panel two we see Benjamin, in scuba gear, walking across the sand carrying the fish in a bowl and the bird in a cage. In panel three he is walking into the water. We worry: Will the fish escape; will the bird drown? But in the final panel we see the fish in a cage and the bird in the overturned, air-filled fishbowl. Four panels, eighteen words, one page, and a full story with desire, a journey, danger, and a "hey, presto" conjurer's denouement. In these twenty-seven single-page stories Coudray creates a set of visual haiku featuring Benjamin and a variety of his friends. An appended "Tips for Parents and Teachers" and the series name, "Easy-to-Read Comics," tell us that this is for emerging readers. The care given to binding, endpapers, and paper make it look like a picture book. The koan-like content suggests something like lateral thinking for tots. The whole enterprise lies somewhere between fuzzy-wuzzy was a bear and an introduction to fuzzy logic. It is original, deep-down funny, and, most important, the adventures are steeped in the rare quality of imaginative kindness. sarah ellis (Copyright 2011 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)School Library Journal (11/01/2011):
K-Gr 3--Benjamin always seems to be in the right place to assist a friend, as when he and Rabbit are stuck in a snowstorm and Rabbit is happy to take shelter underneath his sizable belly, making the bear a living snowdrift. The overlying theme through all of the single-page vignettes is Benjamin's willingness to help his pals. His laugh-out-loud antics are brilliantly displayed in easy-to-follow, colorful panels. Able to leap great ravines, find his way out of a maze, and walk on the ocean floor, he is a character that kids will enjoy spending time with. --Carol Hirsche, Provo City Library, UT
Copyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC.Horn Book Guide (01/01/2012):
In these twenty-seven single-page stories, Coudray creates a set of visual haiku for emerging readers featuring Benjamin Bear and a variety of his friends. The koan-like content suggests something akin to lateral thinking for tots--an introduction to fuzzy logic. The book is original, deep-down funny, and, most important, the adventures are steeped in the rare quality of imaginative kindness. (Copyright 2012 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)