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by Alexa Rosselli

Librarians have always been some of our greatest supporters, and this summer, we have a giveaway just for you!  One lucky library will receive a “Something for Everyone” Hardcover Gift Set – a $90 retail value - FREE of charge!


Here’s how to enter for your chance to win:

1) Print out this flyer we have created just for the promo (click to download) and write in the name of you library in the blank:

2) Email us at to let us know the name of the library as you have written it on your form, so we can track entries.

We will notify you via email whenever someone enters your library for a chance to win, and then one lucky library will win a set of 7 beautiful hardcover TOON Books – a $90 value! Good luck!

For those who want to enter their library for a chance to win, we have some great deals available exclusively in the shop on the TOON website.

First, for parents looking to help their children boost their reading levels this summer, we have three special summer packs.  Each of these packs targets a specific reading level (TOON levels 12, and 3, read more here) to focus efforts and maximize improvement.  Each pack comes with three paperback TOON books, at an unprecedented 33% savings.

For classrooms, librarians, and those looking to bolster their impressive book collections, we have the TOON hardcover gift sets.  The “Discover Comics!” Hardcover Gift Set features a number of our level 1 and level 2 readers, as hand-picked by our own Francoise Mouly.  This set is great for introducing beginning readers (or curious toddlers!) to comics, reading, and high-quality books.  The “Explore Comics!” Hardcover Gift Set” features a selection of our level 2 and level 3 readers, ideal for young readers exploring on their own.  These books will help kids who are learning to read learn to love to read.  Finally we have the “Something for Everyone” Hardcover Gift Set, which reaches across all TOON bounds, and provides a sampling of each of our levels, as well as our more advanced graphic novel, The Secret of Stone Frog.
These sets also enjoy the deep discount of 33%, available exclusively in the shop on the TOON website.  And for a limited time only, orders of these hardcover gift sets will receive free shipping to anywhere in the United States!  With all these savings, it’s a great opportunity to delve into summer reading with TOON, and to help your library out in doing so!
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PictureTOON Books display at BEA.

by Alexa Rosselli

2013 marks the fifth year since we launched TOON Books, and we could not be more thrilled with how far we’ve come.  Our catalog holds almost 30 titles — all high-quality books that help teach kids not only how to read, but just how fun reading can be.  This spring alone we garnered three starred reviews and three Eisner nominations. And we were honored to be cited by Heidi MacDonald as one of the driving forces behind making graphic novels the most popular section in the library.

Naturally, we felt we had cause to celebrate.  And what a week to do so!  BookExpo America was here in New York last week, bringing more people from the publishing industry to the city than during any other time of the year.  As an imprint of Candlewick Press, we set up a vivid display at the Candlewick booth, where we were warmly received by attendees.
TOON authors Frank Cammuso and Geoffrey Hayes made appearances on Friday morning to sign copies of their new books, both due this fall.  The line for signatures wrapped all the way around the Candlewick booth.  Though the authors were only scheduled for an hour, they stayed late to meet everyone who had come out.  We’re grateful to Candlewick for letting us bombard their booth, and even more grateful to our fans for doing the bombarding!  We wouldn’t be where we are without your support and enthusiasm.

“I was amazed by the turnout at BEA. Who knew there were that many comic book fans?” 
                       –Frank Cammuso

Frank and Geoffrey at the signing. See them in action in this awesome vine by Raquel at Candlewick:

Waiting in line for signed copies of new books by Frank Cammuso and Geoffrey Hayes

The undeniable star of the TOON party, and Barry’s real life best buddy – Lola

“It was exciting to have such a large, enthusiastic crowd at BookExpo made up of people who know and love my characters.
From the feedback, it’s clear that we at TOON are succeeding in our goal of turning kids
on to reading.”
                                             –Geoffrey Hayes

For that reason, we invited you all to celebrate our anniversary with us.  A number of you came out to Brooklyn to ring in the next five years of TOON Books with us at Bergen Street Comics. The Bergen Street staff was friendly and welcoming to the whole TOON family, and we got to meet a number of new fans, as well as reconnect with and commemorate a number of peers who have helped make us what we are today.  Among the crowd was Lola, pictured here, who professed herself to be Barry’s actual Best Buddy. Her mom, Meg Lemke, a valued colleague of ours, claims to have read the book to her at least 30 times, and Lola is still rolling with excitement about it.
Lucky for her, the party marked an opportunity not just to celebrate the book, but to meet the book’s author!  Renee French, with her partner Ron in tow, brought her fantastic personality to the TOON party that night.  And she wasn’t the only one!  Frank and Geoffrey, fresh off their sting at BEA, came to rub elbows with fans. Frank Viva, celebrated author of A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse, came with his wife as well. And of course, what would a TOON party be without Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman?
All of our authors were eager to interact with fans.  A few unsuspecting comic readers even came to the store just looking to buy some good books and were blown away by what they found.  One teenager in particular stumbled in and gasped, “Woah, Art Spiegelman!” and stood in awe for a few moments before approaching him for a conversation with him later in the evening.  I even met someone walking into the party who had never heard of TOON Books before — what a way to find out!  He walked out a couple hours later with some new books in tow.

The turnout was fantastic.  So many people showed up that we spilled out onto the sidewalk for much of the evening.  Attendees included bloggers, librarians, publicists and other creators as well.  I cannot think of a better way to commemorate a long run of raising the bar for comics and early readers alike than to spend a night surrounded by other people who work on and enjoy the same thing. 

For those of us who did not want the party to end, there was still more in store for TOON fans that weekend.  Frank Viva hosted a reading and signing of his new book A Long Way Away on Saturday morning.  Later that day, Renee French followed up her appearance at the party with an intimate reading and Q&A on her spring title Barry’s Best Buddy at BookCourt in Brooklyn.  The reading was particularly special to author Renee because a young fan who loves the book offered to read the book aloud for fans, with assistance from her father.  She followed it up with a dinner with some of her adult fans in attendance, warmly capping a TOON-tastic weekend.

The past five years have marked quite a journey for us at TOON.  We are so lucky to have so many supporters, and to have these opportunities to meet you all in person.  Thanks to everyone who came out to any of our events this weekend!  We look forward to making the next five years even more memorable!
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Comic-Con International has announced its nominations for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2013, and we’re delighted to discover that we’ve broken our own record for Eisner nods! 

Last year saw Eisner nominations given to Philippe Coudray’s Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking and Geoffrey Hayes’ Patrick in A Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Other Stories. Now we’ve garnered three nominations in the category of Best Publication for Early Readers Up to Age 7: Benny and Penny in Lights Out!, Maya Makes a Mess, and Zig and Wikki in the Cow. Our authors and artists share in our joy:


“I am both extremely thrilled and honored to have been selected as a candidate for the prestigous Eisner award for a children’s comic book.”

– Rutu Modan, author and illustrator of Maya Makes a Mess


“Since I consider myself a comic artist first and foremost, being nominated for an Eisner Award is especially meaningful to me!” 

– Geoffrey Hayes, author and illustrator of Benny and Penny in Lights Out!


“I’m thrilled that Zig and Wikki are nominated along with Maya, and Benny and Penny. It’s a huge honor, I think, for everyone at TOON Books.” 

– Trade Loeffler, illustrator of Zig and Wikki in the Cow

“Wow, wow, wow, wow WOW!!”  

– Nadja Spiegelman, author of Zig and Wikki in the Cow

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All this week, Barnes & Noble stores nationwide are recognizing the value of educators with extra discounts, savings, and events. TOON Books is participating in B&N’s Educator Appreciation Days, so this is a great opportunity to use your Educator discount to get new TOON Books for the classroom. Click here to find a participating store near you

In addition to featuring our paperbacks, Barnes & Noble is distributing our new COMMON CORE POSTERS, which have been a hit with teachers and students alike. The poster shows how TOON Books can be used to teach the Common Core standards and gives examples of some of the guided activities available on our website. We’re giving these posters away for FREE, so just send us a request!


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Last week, we were wowed by an unsolicited submission. Shipped in an unassuming manilla envelope with no note, these bright works of art are some of the most delightful coloring pages we’ve ever had the luck of seeing. Who is this mysterious artist? Does he work only in crayon, or dabble in other mediums? Most importantly, is he available to color every one of our future Benny and Penny and Benjamin Bear TOON Books? We invite you to take a look at his artwork below and wonder for yourself.
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I just read this well compiled piece from Shelf Awareness, a free newsletter we highly recommend:
Amazon Buying Goodreads: Industry ReactionsAmazon is buying the popular book-focused social networking site Goodreads, which was founded in 2007 and now has more than 16 million members. The acquisition is expected to close by July. Goodreads’ headquarters will remain in San Francisco, and its management is expected to stay in place. 

As the leading social networking site devoted to books, GoodReads has been considered an important element in addressing the “discoverability” problem that grew with spread of e-books and Amazon and the collapse of Borders: How would readers discover books if fewer of them were visiting the best source for learning about new books, bricks-and-mortar bookstores?

In one fell swoop, Amazon, whose algorithms for recommending books have shown limited effectiveness, now owns one of the major tools built to address the problem it created.

On the Goodreads blog, CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler said the site “will continue to be the wonderful community that we all cherish. We plan to continue offering you everything that you love about the site–the ability to track what you read, discover great books, discuss and share them with fellow book lovers, and connect directly with your favorite authors–and your reviews and ratings will remain here on Goodreads. And it’s incredibly important to us that we remain a home for all types of readers, no matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even stone tablets.”

But judging from the reaction of booksellers, publishers and some Goodreads users, the process may not be so easy. The overwhelming feeling expressed yesterday on Twitter and Facebook was surprise and disappointment. ‏@NextGenAuthors tweeted us: “Hey, your April Fool’s edition doesn’t come out until Monday!” Many indies and their fans promptly cancelled their accounts.

The question is how a site that was prized for its independence and noncommercial cred will fare as a part of the Amazon empire. As one person commented on Otis Chandler’s own blog on Goodreads: “I liked/would prefer a community of readers not backed by someone with motives to a) unrelentingly mine my data and b) sell me stuff.”

In response to Chandler’s comment that “We truly could not think of a more perfect partner for Goodreads as we both share a love of books and an appreciation for the authors who write them,” Jarek Steele of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., wrote on his blog: “Really, Goodreads? You’ve forsaken all the other opportunities to partner with independent bookstores, Kobo, even Barnes & Noble & the Nook? How about iPad? Also, who at Amazon has a love of books or authors?”

The Amazon record concerning book world companies it’s purchased isn’t encouraging. While some non-book purchases, like Zappos, have remained independent and fared well, some book purchases are either merged into Amazon World or left to die on the Internet vine, such as Lexcycle and, most tellingly, Shelfari, which, like Goodreads, is a social media site focused on books.

Only last year, Amazon and Goodreads had a public fight that led to Goodreads choosing to use Ingram data instead of Amazon’s because of Amazon’s requirement that its data not link to another retailer. There was no word on how this might change.

Goodreads has also been marked by a kind of openness that runs contrary to Amazon’s penchant for secret. Otis Chandler has spoken at many conferences, giving details about site usage, and Goodreads shares information with publishers. It’s likely all that will change very soon.

The move also adds to the sense that Amazon is slowly buying up much of the book world. Over some 15 years, the company has bought,, Brilliance Audio, the Book Depository, Shelfari,, Lexcycle, BookSurge, CreateSpace, and (through AbeBooks) 40% of Library Thing.

Wired summed up this feeling well, beginning its story on the Amazon purchase of Goodreads with this: “Amazon looked back to its roots in bookselling and forward to its future as the global overlord of all reading and writing by announcing its plan today to purchase social reading site Goodreads.”

Forbes called the move a slap in the face of publishers, writing that it’s no coincidence that the deal came seven weeks after Penguin, Hachette and Simon & Schuster launched Bookish.

“It’s a brilliant move by Amazon,” Mike Shatzkin of the Idea Logical Co. told the Wall Street Journal. “If you are a book marketer, the two places you think about the most in terms of online marketing opportunities are Amazon and Goodreads.” He added, “It makes me question whether Amazon’s competitors are awake. How could they let this happen?”  

And in his inimitable style, Knopf’s Paul Bogaards tweeted, “That’s what all you morons get for sharing your books online.”

We haven’t had a chance to think through the consequences, but I certainly feel betrayed: we’ve been building our Goodreads community recently, but really didn’t expect it would land in Amazon land! 

What do you think? Let us know. 
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by Alexa Rosselli

In her recent article in the Journal of the American Association of School Librarians, Karen Gavigan triumphantly announces, “Fortunately the tide [against comics] has turned, thanks to a growing body of research and soaring graphic-novel circulation statistics that cannot be ignored.”  But while fans of comics know this is the truth, there are those who continue to ignore it.  The fight is not yet won.

The drive to convince naysayers into yay-sayers is one that comic fans face both personally and professionally on a day to day basis.  Gavigan says the merits of comics as tools to literacy are undeniable, but we all have to acknowledge the importance of visual literacy.

Elizabeth E. G. Friese wrote an article entitled “Visual Narratives” in the Journal of the American Association of School Librarians, in which she describes how she came to learn this key point.  She says, “I admit it; I used to think this way myself.  I thought of graphic novels as a gateway to ‘more legitimate’ reading - until, of course, I sat down and actually read one.”  She describes how as she read through Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, she was confused about what was going on, that is, until she realized the way she was reading was what caused her confusion.  

 “I honestly didn’t understand half of what was going on in the book because I was reading only the words.  I wasn’t reading the pictures.  I realized that I prized the word over the picture as both a reader and a teacher.”
—Elizabeth E. G. Friese, educational researcher

The way she was reading, as a reader primarily of traditional books, affected her ability to both understand and appreciate the content of a graphic novel.  Once she slowed down to take in the meaning in the images, she was a convert.  ”Illustrations,” Friese continues, “aren’t a stage in writing that students should be encouraged to leave behind.  Instead, illustrations can add another layer of depth and meaning to a writer’s text.”  Friese sees the merits of books that are both visual and verbal beyond just picture books.  
“Fortunately the tide has turned, thanks to a growing body of research and soaring graphic-novel circulation statistics that cannot be ignored.” 
-Karen Gavigon, American Association of School Librarians

 ”Illustrations can add another layer of depth and meaning to a writer’s text.” 
—Elizabeth E. G. Friese, educational researcher

With so many parents and librarians on our side, it is easy to forget at times that comics and graphic novels are not yet universally accepted.  Jess Kipp, a parent of three young readers, exclaims, “I wasn’t a big comic book reader as a child, but I have really enjoyed watching my three children (ages 3, 5, and 7) absolutely devour them! I now go to the library expressly searching for graphic novels and comics for them all.”  Comics are clearly effective in getting kids excited about reading, and so parents like Jess are convinced of their merit.  In a recent post on School Library Journal‘s website, Elizabeth Burns explains this importance giving readers what they want.  Librarians, as gatekeepers to literature for young children, use this enthusiasm in building their collections.
“The fact that TOON books are leveled gives automatic ‘legitimacy’ in the eyes of many educators who might otherwise not consider them.” 
—Laura Given, librarian

Laura Given explains how her comic collection has grown in her time as a librarian.  ”I’ve been building my library collection of GNs and comics for over 10 years. A lot has changed in that time as far as reviews and acceptance in the education world. Two great things that sell TOON books to those who are still reluctant about using comics and graphic novels as ‘real books’ are what you have done with leveling that really works with how schools use books as part of a reading curriculum, and the (well deserved) shiny medals like the Geisel award on the front. My district uses the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading levels in our curriculum. The fact that TOON books are leveled gives automatic ‘legitimacy’ in the eyes of many educators who might otherwise not consider them.” 
Laura, like Karen Gavigan, sees how the tide is turning.  Legitimizing our books as educational tools has always been one of our most hard fought endeavors here at TOON.  But the stigma still exists and inhibits the efforts of both parents and educators.  Meredith Dixon Randazzo, a parent of a young graphic novel reader, shared with us the struggle she and her son face. “My son has to read a book every week for Accelerated Reader in school – but a lot of the ones he reads aren’t accepted in the system.” [Note: we make sure, at TOON Books, to have all our books entered in the Accelerated Reader program.]
In our meetings with teachers who are ardent supporters of the form, they talk about how difficult it still is to convince colleagues or school administration of the merits of comics.
While the notion of comics as a gateway to traditional literacy has been extremely useful in introducing wary traditionalists to the benefits of comics, focusing solely on that aspect underplays the importance of visual literacy.  Friese saw these benefits firsthand as an adult who learned to look at pictures for information, then applied her findings in her work as an educational researcher.  When we can integrate comics starting at an elementary school age and through the grade school system, we nurture the true visual literacy that is needed in the 21st century. If the turn of the tide is recognizing the merits, the result of it will be a new generation of readers who are skilled in “a more sophisticated, multimodal form of reading,” as Friese dubbed it.

“Graphic novels have the advantage of combining rich, inventive illustrations with simple language in a format that makes for storytelling that is far superior to most ordinary early readers.” 
—Eli Rector, parent and teacher

“My son has to read a book every week for Accelerated Reader in school – but a lot of the ones he reads aren’t accepted in the system.” 
-Meredith Dixon Randazzo, parent

Eli Rector, who is both a parent and a kindergarten/first grade teacher, champions this kind of storytelling in his classroom.  ”Graphic novels have the advantage of combining rich, inventive illustrations with simple language in a format that makes for storytelling that is far superior to most ordinary early readers. Both my daughters love them, and they are a big favorite at story time and solo reading.”  We love that people like Eli are using and documenting this new approach to literacy education. Until his practices are more commonplace, the fight to legitimize comics, especially in the early grades, continues. Fortunately, powerful allies are joining us, as you can see in the photo below, sent by one of our fans.
Photos courtesy of TOON Books supporters who entered our recent giveaway.

Don’t forget: TOON into Reading, Cluck Cluck!

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by Alexa Rosselli
As Julia Phillips reviewed here in a blog post last week, there has been a lot of press lately about the educational benefits of comics.  We are glad to see this happen — with the help of parents and educators, soon more kids will ‘TOON into reading!’ But to better understand how massive a change is needed before comics are widely accepted as a tool for literacy, it may be helpful to remember the past…
Comics in the classroom? We’re slowly getting there, but it wasn’t always thus. Back in 1954, at the prompting of Dr. Wertham and his bestselling Seduction of the Innocent, there were Senate Subcommittee Hearings into Juvenile Delinquency, with a special focus on Comic Books.
Many TOON Books fans recently shared their personal experiences with us, and some vividly remember the stigma attached to comics. Growing up in the 50′s, David Wade Smith met the response typical at the time: ”I started first grade early, and I had trouble with reading. During the summer between grade 1 and grade 2, however, I suddenly caught on. That fall, my teacher, the same one I’d had in grade 1, remarked on the improvement in my reading skills— I was reading at 4th-grade level. She asked me how I’d learned to read over the summer, and I said, “Comic books.” 

[My teacher] asked me how I’d learned to read over the summer, and I said, ‘Comic books.’
David Wade Smith

“A disapproving expression appeared on her face, and I realized that there were people who didn’t see comics as a good thing and I would have to be careful who I told that I read them (though my own mother was OK with them). This was in 1951, of course, when comics were beginning to be viewed as a corrupter of youth–though Scrooge McDuck had nothing on Donald Trump.”

“I realized…

I would have to be careful who I told that I read [comics].
 —David Wade Smith

The stigma around comics has lingered for a long time and it’s only in the past ten or twetny years, after comics, now called “Graphic Novels” have been accepted in bookstores, librairies, and museums, that they are making an inroad into the hands of young children. (Over 90% of children growing up in the US in the 50′s read and loved comics, which is why Wertham was able to conduct a witch hunt on such a scale.)  David’s story resonated with a number of others in the Facebook thread.  John Moore responded about his son, who he was told had a learning disability…
“Teachers told me that they could not figure out how to get my son to read – they said he had a “learning disability.” I started reading him X-Men comics at bed time- when i wasn’t available to read to him, he would read them himself by sticking it all together by memory. Now he reads with no problem.”  

“Teachers told me that [my son] had a “learning disability.” I started him reading X-men comics at bed time.”
—John Moore

While we are extremely pleased that John was able to help his son with comics, it’s unfortunate to hear him say he didn’t receive support from his child’s school. Still, attitudes are changing, and we do everything we can to make sure the trend keeps turning.  Thanks to a few enlightened educators, parents who appreciate comics can often now find allies in the schools.  
The mother of three young readers, Cheryl Urasaki was one of the lucky ones: ”I love the concept of graphic novels for early readers. My oldest son was a reluctant reader, but enjoyed the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants books. My daughter likes the Geronimo Stilton books…  I think anything that captures kids’ attention and gets them reading is a good thing. I discussed this with one of my kids’ teachers, and she feels the same.”  

“I think anything that gets [kids] reading is a good thing. One of my kids’ teachers… feels the same.”  
—Cheryl Urasaki

Jenifer Wagner, a children’s librarian, can appreciate the change in attitude: “I adore the TOON books. I learned to read loving comic books and had to buy them all as libraries didn’t have any.” Now librarians are at the forefront of the newfound appreciation of comics.


Some parents, like Thy Vo, are even educated about the benefits of comics at the library: “To tell the truth I didn’t know anything about TOON Books until I attended a workshop at our local library where the speaker was a professor at a college. Anyway, he encourages parents to instill the love of reading to the kids and somehow he mentioned TOON books as the new “trend” of style. So I searched on the internet and came to the blog and knew about the giveaway. I have a son who is in kindergarten right now and loves to read. I had a chance to take him to Barnes and Noble and saw the display of TOON books. He quickly flipped through the pages and started reading. He enjoys reading all the passages that was in the book. So I figure I should try purchasing these TOON Books for him. Hopefully with this trend becoming to be so popular, that there will be more new titles coming out so these little ones can continue to read this type of books.”

Some parents have always loved comics and eager to share their passion with their children. Tyler Giesa is a case in point: “My son is a hyper literate 7 year old. I read him comics… and he drew comics before he could write. He “cracked the code” of reading pretty much by himself. I credit comics with connecting those pathways in the brain (the visual and verbal).” 
“[My son] ‘cracked the code’ of reading pretty much by himself. I credit comics with connecting [visual and verbal] pathways in the brain .” 
—Tyler Giesa

Comics can inspire such love for reading that they often shape an enthusiastic reader’s future.  In the words of David Wade Smith, who had to be careful about confessing his love for comics, he concluded his post thus: “For 35 years I’ve worked in literary publishing, before that for 10 years I managed bookstores.  Dell and DC deserve a lot of credit for my life’s path.”

“For 35 years I’ve worked in literary publishing, before that for 10 years I managed bookstores. Dell and DC deserve a lot of credit for my life’s path.”
—David Wade Smith

TOON into Reading! 
Drawing by Barry Blitt; Photos courtesy of and of TOON Books supporters who entered our recent giveaway.

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by Alexa Rosselli – images courtesy of Tanya Turek
Not only are comics good for young readers, but kids really love them!  At TOON Books, we know that our books are a great way to teach reluctant readers to love reading, but there is nothing quite like seeing the joy on their faces as they delve into a good book.

One of our blogger fans, Tanya Turek of, sponsored a book giveaway for TOON, in which participating readers submitted photos of their kids with TOON Books.  We owe her a debt of gratitude for collecting all of these fantastic photos for us, and thanks to her readers as well for being such enthusiastic fans!


Our own giveaway is still going through the end of the month too.  Be sure to pop in a bookstore and get a picture of their TOON Books to get one of our new titles for free.

Thanks again to all of our supporters for sending us pictures this month.  We cannot wait to hear what you have to say about your new TOON books!

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by Julia Phillips — Illustrations by Barry Blitt
“Comics are more than just illustrated books, but rather make use of a multi-modal language that blends words, pictures, facial expressions, panel-to-panel progression, color, sound effects and more to engage readers in a compelling narrative.”

—Stanford Professor Emerita Barbara Tversky


When first drafting our mission statement in 2008, we turned to one of our advisors, Stanford Professor Emerita Barbara Tversky, for the best explanation possible of how comics teach kids. Professor Tversky puts it so well: “Comics use a broad range of sophisticated devices for communication,” she told us. “They are similar to face-to-face interactions, in which meaning is derived not solely from words, but also from gestures, intonation, facial expressions and props. Comics are more than just illustrated books, but rather make use of a multi-modal language that blends words, pictures, facial expressions, panel-to-panel progression, color, sound effects and more to engage readers in a compelling narrative.” Five years later, study after study has come out extolling the virtues of comics as a teaching tool. All we can think is…we told you so!

“Comic books have been shown to be useful for beginning readers, since the reduced text makes the language manageable for new readers. Comics are especially useful for improving reading development among second-language learners and children with learning difficulties.”
—The Canadian Council of Learning 


The Canadian Council of Learning has gathered definitive research showing that readers who love comics also tend to read more text-based material and report enjoying reading more than their peers who don’t pick up comic books. Reports the CCL, 

“Comic books allow children to develop many of the same skills as reading text-based books such as connecting narratives to children’s own experiences, predicting what will happen next and inferring what happens between individual panels. Even before children are ready to read text, comic books can give them practice in making meaning from material printed on a page, tracking left to right and top to bottom, interpreting symbols, and following the sequence of events in a story. 
Comic books have been shown to be useful for beginning readers, since the reduced text makes the language manageable for new readers. Comics expand children’s vocabulary by giving contexts to words that the child would not normally have been exposed to.” 

Comics, the CCL goes on to say, are especially useful for improving reading development among second-language learners and children with learning difficulties. (It’s no coincidence that educators of these groups are among TOON’s biggest advocates.)

Students who read comics-format material, as opposed to text-only material, retained more information. 
— University of Oklahoma study


Heidi MacDonald of Publishers Weekly recently covered a University of Oklahoma study measuring how students retain information presented in graphic novel format. The OU study found that students who read comics-format material, as opposed to text-only material, retained more information verbatim — and 80% of the students involved found comics “compared favorably” with the text-only format. 

“Every year, more comics are in more classrooms than the year before to great result.” 
—Josh Elder, Reading with Pictures


Josh Elder, the founder of Reading with Pictures, wasn’t surprised at the Oklahoma study’s conclusion. “Every year, more comics are in more classrooms than the year before to great result,” Elder said. “Even the newly implemented Common Core Standards explicitly call for the use of alternative media – including comics–in the curriculum.” Jeremy Short, who headed the OU study, told PW, “It was exciting to verify what some would say was common sense but some naysayers would say was the opposite of commons sense. I was shocked at how opposed a certain minority seemed to be to this format. The pencil, ball-point ben, chalkboard, and computer are all innovations that educators scoffed at when they were first introduced. I hope the graphic novel can be added to that list of educational tools that seem foolish to bemoan in hindsight.”


 ”The newly implemented Common Core Standards explicitly call for the use of alternative media – including comics–in the curriculum.”
—Josh Elder, Reading with Pictures

Of course, we’re proud of our books not just for their pedagogical virtues but also for their artistic ones. The thousands of kids exclaiming over TOON Books aren’t so excited simply because they’re developing their inference skills — they’re thrilled because they love making mud pies with Benny and Penny, swimming through the ocean with Nanaue, and journeying to the bottom of the world with Mouse. As Booklist pointed out way back in 2008, TOON Books are “a literacy tool to teach kids how to not only read but also love to read.” And that’s exactly what we want in schools.

“The TOON Books are a literacy tool to teach kids how to not only read but also love to read.”
—Ian Chipman, Booklist

“Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.”
—Art Spiegelman, 
Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Maus, A Survivor’s Tale

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by Amy Lee

We’ve taken you on a tour of our new Level 1 paperbacks, so today, let’s move on to our Level 2 paperbacks (and again, don’t forget about our special giveaway celebrating their release!) Like our Level 1 paperbacks, the Level 2 paperbacks feature a redesigned cover, a special back-cover TOON into Reading insert to help get the most out of our books, and are affordably priced at $4.99. Today, we’ll be revisiting our Level 2 paperbacks: Benny and Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes, Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker by Geoffrey Hayes and Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking by Philippe Coudray.

Our Level 2 books also have the same careful attention to reading level and education as our Level 1 books, but at a difficulty appropriate for children in grades 1 to 2.  Each comes complete with an educator vetted vocabulary, but with 300-600 easy sight words, a story arc with a few characters and 1-4 panels per page. And, each is complemented by a free common core guide and lesson plan. Our books are specifically designed to help early readers on their way, with or without the help of an adult.

“The latest entry in the TOON Books line of emerging-reader comics pushes a whole new sort of envelope: outré 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 … it demonstrates exactly what makes comics such a winning bet for kids. They’re just plain fun, see.”
– Booklist

  • Eisner Best Publication for Early Readers Nominee 2012
  • New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2011

Benjamin Bear is not your usual four-legged fuzzy friend. Told in single-page vignettes which also function as sophisticated yet simple jokes, Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking brings together some of acclaimed French artist Philippe Coudray’s best Benjamin Bear stories. Kids will love following along as Benjamin finds himself in a series of conundrums — and as he finds his way out of them in highly unusual, but always amusing, ways.

Common Core guide and Lesson Plan for Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking

“The sweet, delicately colored illustrations have an old-fashioned feel that gives the familiar sibling story a timeless quality, while the simple yet varied panel arrangement allows even very young children to understand the difference between a comic and a picture book. The text uses a limited but rich vocabulary with sufficient repetition to help with word recognition, and children will easily grasp the message while appreciating Benny’s change of heart at the story’s close. A charmer that will invite repeated readings.”

  • Booklist Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth
  • Maryland Blue Crab Young Readers Honor Book
  • Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year
  • Kirkus Reviews Best of 2009 Continuing Series
  • Iowa Goldfinch Award
  • Starred Review in Booklist
  • Starred Review in Publishers Weekly

Benny and Penny are brother and sister. And, like any brother and sister, they fight with each other just as much as they play together. In Geoffrey Hayes’s modern classic, friendly colored pencil drawings pull kids in, while his accurate depictions of the trials and pleasures of childhood keep them hooked. In
Benny and Penny in Just Pretend, Benny wants to be a pirate — alone! Watch as Penny changes his mind, overcomes some scary insects, and helps him sail his way towards loot.

Common Core guide and Lesson Plan for Benny and Penny in Just Pretend

“Learning to read is fun with TOON Books like Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker. Written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes, this book–like all the TOON Books graphic novel readers–allows kids to understand the story just by ‘reading’ the picture, with the text adding key details…With his newest book, Hayes demonstrates his keen appreciation of the politics of childhood as he shows how Benny and his younger sister Penny deal with a visit from their ‘toy breaker’ cousin Bo. In humorous contrast to the emotion-packed story, Hayes’s watercolor illustrations depict a cozy world reminiscent of Beatrix Potter.”
– The Washington Post

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year
  • Kirkus Reviews Best of 2009 Continuing Series

When Benny and Penny’s cousin Bo comes to visit, all their toys have to be hidden away. Bo is that most-feared of childhood enemies: The Toy Breaker. This time is no different — Bo wreaks havoc on Benny’s paddle ball, rips Penny’s stuffed Monkey, and, worst of all, steals their secret treasure map. Can Benny, Penny and Bo find a game that can’t be broken?

Common Core guide and Lesson Plan for Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker

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By Amy Lee
TOON’s new paperbacks are now in stores (where you can photograph them to participate in our giveaway), and we are so, so very excited about them. The new paperbacks feature a redesigned cover, a special back-cover TOON into Reading insert to help get the most out of our books, and are affordably priced at $4.99. Today, we’ll be revisiting our three Level One paperbacks — Little Mouse Gets Ready, Chick & Chickie Play All Day, and Silly Lilly and The Four Seasons

Unlike many early readers out there, TOON books are designed specifically for the needs of the beginning reader, from the words we use to the pictures accompanying them. Let’s start with a few basic facts about Level 1 TOON Readers that you may not already know:

  • Our Level 1 books use a vetted vocabulary: Experienced educators and reading specialists proofread early versions of each and every book to make sure that every word we use is appropriate for a K-1 age level
  • Each Level 1 book usually features about 200-300 of these easy sight (easy to sight read for beginning readers) words, in short sentences
  • Level 1 books also keep the story simple, with often only one character, a single time frame or theme, and just 1-2 panels per page
  • If you don’t want to use our level system, each TOON book is also levelled by grade, Lexile, Guided Reading, and Reading Recovery 
  • Every new TOON paperback is complemented by a common core guide and lesson plan, available for free on our website 
  • For even younger readers, Level 1 TOON Readers are just as wonderful when an adult reads them aloud to a child (and eventually, when that child reads the same book aloud to their adult)

“The way the best comics combine art with the written word to capture the readers interest has special magic to children–even children who otherwise shy away from books.” – Brenley MacLeod, librarian

Little Mouse Gets Ready 
by Jeff Smith

Smith’s deceptively simple style is a terrific match for a young audience—one- or two-panel pages that are elegant, lighthearted, and touching all at once—and a knock-your-socks-off twist at the end will leave children giggling. As a dual treat, the subject matter encourages the empowering activity of dressing oneself at the same time that its medium helps build visual comprehension and reading confidence.” 
  • A 2009 Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor Book
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • School Library Journal Best Comics for Kids 2009
  • Pennsylvania Center for the Book Best Children’s Books for Family Literacy 2010

Buttons! Snaps! Pants! Shoes! This much-beloved tale of a Little Mouse who just needs to get dressed for a big day at the farm will delight young readers, who will relate to the adorable mouse getting through the difficult duty of getting all his clothes on in the right order. 

Our Common Core Guide and Lesson Plan for Little Mouse Gets Ready 
TOON Online Reader 

Chick & Chickie Play All Day 
by Claude Ponti 

“No American publisher has attempted what TOON Books is doing, providing interesting graphic novels with educator-approved text for readers as young as four years old…Chick & Chickie [is] its first volume featuring the art of Claude Ponti, one of the most respected French authors of children’s literature. Ponti has a background in fine art, and his books contain stunning visuals, often with surrealistic dreamlike elements…The art is all Ponti, but the book itself is re-imagined for a young American audience.”

– ICV2

Chick and Chickie love to play — whether its crafting scary masks or chasing around a giant red ‘A,’ these two little birds know just how to have fun. Kids will be enchanted by these two feathered friends, while adults will appreciate the sly humour in Ponti’s gorgeous drawings. 

Our Common Core guide and Lesson Plan for Chick & Chickie Play All Day

Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons 
by Agnes Rosenstiehl

“This graphic-early-reader entry from TOON Books is itself an objet d’art. The slight story, in basic comic-book format, briefly and joyfully bounds through the seasons at the rate of four panels per page…Emergent readers will be drawn to Lilly’s ebullient perspective and captivated by the uncluttered layout; the easy lesson on the seasons is a bonus.”

– Kirkus Reviews
  • Starred review in Publishers Weekly
  • One of Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2008

Silly Lilly is a spunky little girl who — like all spunky children — finds lots to do as the seasons change. She and her faithful friend Teddy play in the snow and in the sand, leaping and jumping across fields in the spring, and sorting apples in the summer. 

Our Common Core Guide and Lesson Plan for Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons
TOON Online Reader

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by Alexa Rosselli and Amy Lee
TOON Books is about to have its BIGGEST GIVEAWAY EVER!

We are very excited for the launch of our affordable new line of $4.99 paperback TOON Books, and we want to celebrate!  

Send us your pictures: 


Starting February 12, displays of our new TOON paperbacks will be in all Barnes and Noble stores and a select group of independent bookstores (see bottom of the post for a list). Send us a picture of those displays and we will send you a new TOON paperback, absolutely free. 

If your local bookstore does not have one of displays, you are still in luck.  Just send us a picture of TOON Books in ANY store, and we will still give you a paperback TOON.

Our first six paperbacks feature a whole slew of new features, including:

  • A redesigned cover and back cover with extra guidance on our levels
  • TOON into Reading guides in the back of each book to help kids get the most out of our books
  • The affordable price of $4.99

There are three Level 1 TOON readers, and three Level 2 TOON readers: Claude Ponti’s Chick & Chickie Play All Day, Agnes Rosenstiehl’s Silly Lilly and The Four Seasons, Jeff Smith’s Little Mouse Gets Ready, Philippe Coudray’s Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking and Geoffrey Hayes’ Benny and Penny in Just Pretend and Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker.

And, each of our new books are supplemented by free lesson plans and common core guides on our website.

TOON Books are the go-to for early readers, great for reluctant readers, and loved by boys and girls alike.  

Pullitzer Prize-winning author Art Spiegelman describes comics as a “gateway drug to literacy!” and studies show it too: comics promote literacy in kids! TOON Books are an invaluable asset for beginning readers who are still struggling with English and reluctant readers too.

Tell your friends so everyone can take advantage.  We can’t wait to see your pictures.

Independent Bookstores with our display:

Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado
Children’s Book World in Haverford, Pennsylvania
Gibson’s Book Store in Concord, New Hampshire
WORD in Brooklyn, New York
Wellesley Books in Wellesley, Massachusetts
Linden Tree in Los Altos, California
Hicklebee’s in San Jose, California
McNally Jackson Booksellers in New York, New York
Barstons Child’s Play in Washington, D.C. 
Newtonville Books in Newton, Massachusetts
Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine
Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York
Mapletree Books in Warrensburg, New York
The Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, New Hampshire
Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, New Hampshire

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Hello TOON friends! In case you’d forgotten, today is the LAST DAY for our social media giveaway. To celebrate our 1,000 followers on Twitter and our 1,500 fans on Facebook, we’re giving one free TOON book to three fans. 

Tweet @toonbooks or comment on our Facebook page naming the TOON title you’d most like to read next. Today, at 5 pm, we’ll pick three random winners to get their requested TOON Books for FREE!

Thanks again to our wonderful fans and readers. 

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by Amy Lee
The suspense is over! We’ve entered the names of everyone who’s sent us the name of the TOON book they’d like to read into a random generator to come up with our three winners: 

Vicki Palmquist
Jorden Cunningham 
Rebecca Zarazan

Congratulations! Please email us at so that we can get your shipping information and send you your books!

For everyone else who entered, thank you again for your continued support. We couldn’t keep doing what we do without you. If you want to get the early scoop on more giveaways like this one, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter at There might just be something special coming up very soon… 

We’ve also tallied up the books (links below) that were most frequently requested by our fans, along with some of our favorite comments. 

A Trip to the Bottom of the World by Frank Viva: 
Diandra: “My five year old and I really want to read A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse! Looks like a great adventure!”

The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson

The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra:
Vicki: “I booktalk your books every chance I get … I think they’re TERRIFIC! I’d love to read The Secret of the Stone Frog.”

Christina: “The Secret of the Stone Frog. The pen and ink work looks amazing  and inspiring!”

Zig and Wikki in The Cow by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler:
Robin: “Looking forward to reading Zig and Wikki in The Cow because it looks like fun!”

Noel: “Thanks for your awesome books! My son actually reads them! We would love to read Zig and Wikki in The Cow.”

Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler
Carol: “Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework — my 6-year-old son always wants to borrow it from the library!”

Jack and the Box by Art Spiegelman

Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today? by Agnès Rosenstiehl

Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss

Benny and Penny in the Toybreaker! by Geoffrey Hayes

Chick and Chickie Play All Day by Claude Ponti

Stinky by Eleanor Davis

Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking by Philippe Coudray

Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith

Barry’s Best Buddy by Renee French  This title will soon be released… So stay tuned for more great TOON Books, and more giveaways!

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by Amy Lee
Congratulations to Katherine Applegate and Jon Klassen, respectively the winners of this year’s Newbery and Caldecott Medals as awarded by the American Library Association! 

Applegate’s book, The One and Only Ivan focuses on Ivan, a gorilla living in a mall arcade, while Klassen’s book, This is Not My Hat follows a little fish wearing someone else’s hat. If you’ve read Klassen’s 2011 book I Want My Hat Back, a cute bear missing his hat with a bloodthirsty ending, you won’t be too surprised by how this one ends. 

A special congratulations to Candlewick, Klassen’s publisher (as well as TOON’s). 

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by Julia Phillips

This month, we hit 1500 fans on Facebook and 1000 followers on Twitter! To celebrate our success, we’re devoting this week on our social pages to a limited-time giveaway. Tweet @toonbooks or comment on our Facebook page naming the TOON title you’d most like to read next. On Friday, Feb. 1 we’ll pick three random winners to get their requested TOON Books for FREE!


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Here at TOON, we love reading — not only our own books, but any books that demonstrate how magical the world of literature can be. Because we know that eventually, your child will (hopefully!) read all that TOON has to offer, we’ve decided to offer a new feature for readers, teachers, and parents looking for their next great read with TOON reading lists of Recommended Titles for Emerging Readers.  

Our reading lists provide titles for young readers of every age and skill set. For example, did you love A Trip to the Bottom of the World by Frank Viva? The experts 100 Scope Notes, a blog from School Library Journal, offer a set of recommendations that may well delight those who adored Mouse’s adventures in the Antarctic. The children books they have recently noted besides the TOON Books include:

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead

Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell

Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin

Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst

Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin

What Body Part is That? by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Compiled from the recommendations of the most trustworthy and knowledgeable experts in the field, our reading lists are culled from children’s blogs, publishing industry newsletters and librarians recommendations. We of course expect you to first read ALL the TOON Books, but with these lists, we try to help you and your child find the next appropriate book to continuously TOON into reading! 

You may think we’re crazy in using our precious web space to recommend other publisher’s books, but in doing so, we’re following up on what we believe, as expressed by TOON Advisor Art Spiegelman’s quip: “Especially for emerging readers, comics can be the gateway drug into literature!” 

Keep getting them books and comics, and more comics, and more books. Happy reading!

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by Emily Viemeister
To all our friends and fans: we need your help!

January is the month for awards. It is the month of red carpets, beautiful gowns, and shiny trophies (as we like to think of literary awards…) It is the month where we congratulate each other, pat one another on the back, and at the same time pray that we will have more award-winners, more books on ‘Best of’ and recommended lists.

This year marks the 5th anniversary for TOON Books. Looking back, we’re proud to see the many awards we’ve received from the start. Three of our books have won or have been honor books for the prestigious Theodore Seuss Geisel Award: Benny and Penny in the Big No No! by Geoffrey Hayes, Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith, and Stinky by Eleanor Davis.

That said, our hunger for awards is even stronger this year, as we look at what we’ve accomplished.

This year marked one of our most successful yet! In 2012, our frontlist of 7 books has received starred reviews in both Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, tributes from The New York Times, and been named to several “best of” lists.

So how do you come in?

The most important thing is getting our name out there. Talk about us, tweet about us, facebook about us. Let the world know that TOON is a force to be reckoned with!

Share this blog post with your friends and family.

If you are a judge or influential member of an awards committee that is considering our books, let us know and we will send hard copies your way!

If you know a judge or any influential member of an awards committee, ask if they know the TOON Books. Let us know if you think we should send copies their way…

And, if you’re a reviewer, make sure we have your up-to-date information so that we can continue to send you advance copies of our line-up. If you’re not sure you’re on our list, send a quick email to me, Emily, at:

and we’ll get right back to you. If you have requested and received a review copy, make sure to post your review(s) in as many places as you can, on your blog and in gathering places for readers such as Goodreads and Amazon.

Help TOON get the attention it deserves. Help us continue to change the world through comics.

Praise the 2012 titles have already gathered:

The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson
A Junior Library Guild SelectionGreater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy “Book of the Month”
A New York Times review, as part of a round-up on books for dads and kids

A Trip to the Bottom of the World by Frank Viva
Starred review in Publisher’s Weekly
A New York Times review
Named as one of 100 Scope Notes’ Fall 2012 ’10 to Note’ 

The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra
Named to the New York Public Library’s 2012 List of 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
A graphic review in the New York Times
Starred review in Kirkus Reviews
Starred review in Publisher’s Weekly

Maya Makes a Mess by Rutu Modan
Named to the Autumn 2012 Kids’ Indie Next List

Fingers crossed… We’re hoping the list will only keep growing. We’re counting on your help and support. Thank you!

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by Amy Lee
The real Christopher Robin’s toys

Not every child has a stuffed animal for a friend. But for those who have one, or many, furry companions to play pretend with, these eventually-tattered, well-loved toys can be more than just fabric and stuffing. 

Children’s book authors have always known this to be true. A.A. Milne, author of the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ series, based his stories around his own son, Christopher Robin. Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and others have their origin as the inanimate creatures you see above. 

Patrick (who is himself, a teddy bear) plays with a tiny stuffed human at bedtime

In many stories concerning the lives of stuffed animals and their human owners, toys must be alone with their playmate in order to come alive. In other cases, the toys can only come to life when no human is present (as in Toy Story or The Velveteen Rabbit). 
There is, for example, Sara Crewe’s first doll, Emily from A Little Princess:

   ”Oh, papa!” she cried. “There is Emily!”

   A flush had risen to her face and there was an expression in her green-gray eyes as if she had just recognized someone she was intimate with and fond of.

   ”She is actually waiting there for us!” she said. “Let us go in to her.”

   ”Dear me,” said Captain Crewe, “I feel as if we ought to have someone to introduce us.”

   ”You must introduce me and I will introduce you,” said Sara. “But I knew her the minute I saw her — so perhaps she knew me, too.”

Later, after Sara’s father is ruined, she must work as a scullery maid, always hungry and tired. She turns to Emily again, but is less satisfied with her response. 

   She looked at the staring glass eyes and complacent face, and suddenly a sort of heartbroken rage seized her. She lifted her little savage hand and knocked Emily off the chair, bursting into a passion of sobbing — Sara who never cried.

   ”You are nothing but a doll!” she cried. “Nothing but a doll — doll — doll! You care for nothing. You are stuffed with sawdust. You never had a heart. Nothing could ever make you feel. You are a doll!”

   Emily lay on the floor, with her legs ignominiously doubled up over her head, and a new flat place on the end of her nose; but she was calm, even dignified. Sara hid her face in her arms. The rats in the wall began to fight and bite each other and squeak and scramble. Melchisedec was chastising some of his family.

   ”You can’t help being a doll,” she said with a resigned sigh, “any more than Lavinia and Jessie can help not having any sense. We are not all made alike. Perhaps you do your sawdust best.” And she kissed her and shook her clothes straight, and put her back upon her chair.

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