Brother and sister Benny and Penny, two little mice, return in their second book, another of the excellent Toon Book easy readers. In this story, the mice learn that a new family has moved next door, and that they have a child. The two are dying to get a glimpse of the new kid through the fence, but they can't see anything. They know that it's a "big no-no" to climb over the fence and sneak into someone's yard, but when Benny discovers that his pail is missing, and Penny wonders aloud if the new kid took it, Benny is over the fence and into the yard in a flash.
Misunderstandings, false accusations, hurt feelings and a mud fight ensue, and as events play out, it becomes clear that friendship can spring up in the most unexpected ways.
I adored the first Benny and Penny book, Benny and Penny in Just Pretend, and I love the concept of the easy reader Toon Book series. The books are very well made, with thick pages and sturdy spines, and the illustrations are colorful and appealing. The Toon Books at my library are incredibly popular, rarely staying on the shelf for more than a day or two before they're snatched up by another interested reader.
This particular book tells a story that children will easily relate to. Older and younger siblings alike will identify with the relationship between Benny and Penny, who are friends and playmates but do not always see eye to eye. They will get caught up in the story, which is told in simple, readable words for emerging readers - and has all the visual cues to explain those words that any new reader could desire - because it is not just a series of words from a word list arranged in a "kind of" story, like so many beginning readers are. It is exciting, funny, and even involves a little mystery - just what did happen to Benny's pail?
I brought this book home from the library yesterday (it won this year's Geisel Award, and I hadn't read it yet!), and I happened to set it down on the kitchen table. Both my children (in the third and fifth grades) are well past easy readers at this point, but each one picked it up and read it through without any prompting on my part - and both said how cute and fun it is. That is the magic of graphic novels - kids pick them up willingly (as do many adults) - and what's better than graphic novels targeted at the younger set, to make the books even more appealing? Another thing I like about these books is that for kids who are behind their peers in reading skill development, it is less off-putting or embarrassing to read this kind of book around their friends than something clearly targeted at much younger children - their friends will want to read this too, just as my kids did, simply because it's such a good book. Hooray for Toon Books!
Benny and Penny in The Big No-No by Geoffrey Hayes (RAW Junior, 2009)
Also reviewed at:
Booking Mama: There are few words on each page so the early reader won't get easily frustrated; and there is also lots of word repetition -- perfect for a young one who is learning to read."