J.D. Ho
Author and Children's Book Reviewer

Overview The comic-book stories in “Benjamin Bear” by Philippe Coudray will tickle young readers’ funny bones, and give teachers the opportunity to introduce varieties of humor, such as slapstick and incongruity.
Subject English Language Arts
Grade Level 1-2
Objectives Students will be able to recognize the unexpected outcomes of Benjamin Bear’s unconventional logic through solving the puzzles in each story, while exploring different narrative possibilites.
Before Reading Look at single pictures and discuss the many possible narratives you could create for the image. For example, have students bring in a picture from a magazine, a photograph from home, or a drawing they’ve made. Have students construct the rest of the story. Ask students: What is happening in this picture? How do you know? What do you think will happen next? Discuss how the visual information we get can be the jumping off point for many different narratives.

Have students then observe the cover of the book. What is strange about the picture? Why do you think the penguin is in the refrigerator? Why is it funny? Explain to students how the humor stems from an unexpected turn of events in the narrative, i.e. what happens next is not what we expected.
During Reading 1. A lot of the humor in these stories comes from the unexpected turns in the narrative. Discuss narrative possibilities after each panel. What do we expect to happen after panel one? Panel two? Is there more than one way the story could go?

Examples: “To fly—or not” pg. 10, “The maze” pg. 14, “To jump—or not” pg. 17

2. Talk about different points of view in “Painting (pg. 7),” “At the store (pg. 19),” and “The winner (pg. 23).” Why is it funny to compare how two characters react to the same situation?

3. Talk about moments of slapstick, such as whomping the cow in “Painting (pg. 7),” Benjamin hitting the tree in “The winner (pg. 23),” snowball fights in “Do as you are told! (pg. 25),” or the baseball hitting the fox in “I want to play!” (pg. 28) Point out the physical comedy of the situation and have students compare with their own experiences.

4. Talk about things that don’t belong. Why is a bird nest on a bear stomach funny (in “A long nap,” pg. 11)? Do you think the moon eats bear food (“The man in the moon,” pg. 12)? Are there birds who live in the ocean under fishbowls (“Underwater,” pg. 13)? Would you ever use your pet bunny as a dish towel (“Help your friends,” pg. 15)? Explain to students the incongruity presented in each moment.
After Reading 1.Hand out activity sheet, and have students order the panels of “The Long Nap” sequentially without any text in the word bubbles.

2. Next, have students do a round robin comic where one student does the first panel, a 2nd student does the 2nd panel, and so on. How is the final narrative different from what the first illustrator envisioned?