Comics : Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 1 - Meet the Villains

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club

This review was first published on: Jul 2012.

Background...

The guys at HarperCollins have produced quite a few Spidey books in their time, starting with a bunch of 2002/04/07 movie tie-ins, and more recently a stack of standalone generic continuity books. You can find them all over in our Spider-Man Books (HarperCollins) title.

Now with this package they've taken that 2007-2012 material and reworked it to produce a boxed set of 12 tiny "Learn to Read with Phonics Fun!" booklettes.

In Detail...

"Meet the Villains"
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 1 - Meet the Villains
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  Andie Tong, Jeremy Roberts, MADA Design, Inc.
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 2 - Spider-Man versus the Lizard
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  MADA Design, Inc.
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Adventures of Spider-Man (An I Can Read Book)
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 3 - Menace of the Molten Man
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  Andie Tong, Jeremy Roberts
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 4 - Spider-Man versus the Vulture
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  Andie Tong, Jeremy Roberts
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Adventures of Spider-Man (An I Can Read Book)
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 5 - Spider-Man versus Electro
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  MADA Design, Inc.
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Adventures of Spider-Man (An I Can Read Book)
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 6 - Spider-Man versus Kraven
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  Andie Tong, Jeremy Roberts
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Adventures of Spider-Man (An I Can Read Book)
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 7 - The Great Holiday Chase
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  MADA Design, Inc.
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 8 - Meet Spider-Man
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  Andie Tong, Jeremy Roberts
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 9 - Clash with the Rhino
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  Andie Tong, Jeremy Roberts
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 10 - Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  Andie Tong, Jeremy Roberts
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Adventures of Spider-Man (An I Can Read Book)
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 11 - Battle with Doc Ock
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  Andie Tong, Jeremy Roberts
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)
Spider-Man: Phonics Fun Book 12 - A Day in the Life of Peter Parker
Oct 2010 : SM Title
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Lucy Rosen
Artist:  Andie Tong, Jeremy Roberts
Advisor:  Cathy Toohey (Phonics)
Designer:  John Sazaklis
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Contained In: Spider-Man: Phonics Fun (Boxed Set)

Each book is 5" x 5" x 12 color pages with a staple-bound cardboard cover. Each targets a specific phonetic sound. With each long and short vowel getting a book of their own, that takes care of the first ten books. Book 11 covers "-sh" and "-ch" blends, while book 12 is a review.

At the start of each book, a list of target words are given, featuring the specific sounds that the book covers. There's also a list of short "sight" words, plus a bonus "fun" word to spot.

Then follows a short story with six images and six associated sentences. All of the artwork is taken from the previous books. The text is reconstituted to fit the drastically reduced lexile format.

In General...

My first impression was disappointment as I discovered that while the box was 6" x 5.25" x 1.75", most of the interior was just empty air. Over 50% of the package is empty cardboard filler, while the books themselves are tiny and compact. But still, it's quality that counts with literature, not quantity. And the books themselves are "small but perfectly formed".

Phonics is one of the most popular ways to teach kids to read, and by including sight words and working with a supporting context, these books basically cover all the bases. What's more, HarperCollins certainly seem to have taken a serious approach by bringing phonics specialist Cathy Toohey onto the team.

Will these books teach your kid to read? Sure, why not. They're probably as good as anything else. Sit down and spend some reading time with your kids. And with Spidey!

If I was to raise one complaint, it would be that while the key words are listed at the front of the book, they're not actually identified within the text. As a parent trying to help kids to identify specific sounds, it would have been great for the target words to be italicized or underlined within the body of the book itself. Instead, the parent needs to go hunting for them. C'mon guys, make life easy for us please!

Actually, can I have two complaints? I would like to point out that the stories are incredibly facile and offer zero entertainment value to any adult.

Overall Rating...

Twelve books for Thirteen bucks seems fair enough to me. Plus the books have definite visual appeal. On the other hand, the text has no intrinsic poetry or appeal, and the plots are punch-smash-pow of the lowest order.

But overall, I think we can call this set of a books "a force for good" in the world of reading. If you have a reluctant young reader who might be motivated by this kind of content, then I would say these books are well worth a bash. Three and a half webs.