Reviews of Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker
"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
"Those who remember beginning reader books coming in two styles — either the decorous format of Frog and Toad and other Harper I Can Read books or the larger trim-sized Cat in the Hat — might be surprised to know that books for new readers now come in a variety of sizes and reading levels.
Mo Willems has several series for new readers; Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! is the latest in the Cat the Cat books. As the title indicates, the repetition of a very few words provides the humor, as Cat the Cat informs all his animal friends of bedtime. Colloquial and irreverent, this series is just right for the newest readers, who can hear one reading from a caregiver and be off to the races themselves. (2–5 years)
Benny and Penny in 'The Toy Breaker,' by Geoffrey Hayes, is slightly more advanced and appropriately takes the action away from bedtime and into the high noon of unsupervised backyard play, with mouse-siblings Benny and Penny confronting the trouble-making antics of visiting Cousin Bo. A comic-book format adds to the mischief. (4–6 years)
Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade, written by Stephanie Greene and illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson, is for kids who are almost ready for Ramona. Posey isn’t at all sure she is ready for first grade, where your parent is no longer allowed to walk you to your classroom. Kids at the other end of the same year will recognize Posey’s nervousness and rejoice at their own maturity — and their ability to read a whole big book. (5–8 years)"
--Notes from the Horn Book
"Each story I read with these mice siblings is better than the one before. I think it’s because the characters grow on me with exposure — I get more sense of them and their adorable little personalities. In this third book in the series (after Just Pretend and The Big No-No!), cousin Bo comes to visit. Benny and Penny have to hide all their toys, because Bo always breaks them. Bo is grabby and selfish and obnoxious, which makes for great comedy and visual action. Youngsters will love seeing a conflict they can identify with — a kid they don’t want to play with, for very good reason — while adults will love the accurate portrayal of the way children think and act. A surprising amount happens in this 32-page color comic under hard covers, with a lovely resolution.
Author Hayes is also very approachable by readers, with a new blog featuring his characters and a contest to win a school visit from him."
--Great Graphic Novels for Kids
"Much as I loved Danny the Dinosaur, I sure wish the Toon Books had been around when I was learning to read. Engaging and concerned about the things kids care about (toys, stinky monsters, favorite colors,) they are as fun as they are attractive. The books incorporate proper comic formatting with the controlled vocabulary associated with easy reader, to create a reading experience that is kid friendly, level appropriate--everything one could want from a book designed to snag fans. In this installment, mice siblings Benny and Penny want to search for buried treasure. But first they have to deal with Cousin Bo, who has the annoying habit of breaking all their toys. Bo reminds me of the rather excitable Wendell from Kevin Henke's Weekend with Wendell, who is oblivious to the havoc he wreaks. He just wants to play! A satisfying resolution is guaranteed, along with a healthy dose of physical comedy.
With two titles in their catalog recognized as Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor Books--and one Geisel winner--the Toon books are in a fabulous position to amuse and educate young readers for some time to come."
--Not Just for Kids
"I love Toon Books and I would love to see them on every child’s shelf. It delights me that they’re getting plenty of honors reserved for children’s books because they absolutely deserve it. So you can probably tell in what direction these reviews are going to go in. Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker
This is the third in Geoffrey Hayes’ stories about two mice siblings — Benny and Penny. Brother Benny is a little older than sister Penny, but the two (for the most part) get along. This has them trying to hide their toys from their cousin Bo, the 'toy breaker' in the title.
Bo means well, but he’s a kid who hasn’t quite grown into himself yet and so he’s more destructive than he means to be. Benny and Penny are a little mean to him, excluding him from their games since they’re fearful he’s going to ruin their toys. By the end, though, the siblings understand how harsh they’ve been to Bo and they all find a way to play together happily.
It’s a sweet story told in language kids can relate to. I think we all knew a kid who tended to break things accidentally (Hayes himself mentions a neighbor, Skippy, in the back, who did that very thing) but Hayes pushes for understanding rather than exclusion. His art remains forever adorable — the little animals that populate this book are cute without being cloying. His art reminds me of classic comic strips and the retro feel of the book is appealingly innocent. The seeming simplicity of this book belies a great message for kids without ever being preachy."
"What do you offer your early reader after he has read-until-memorized all of Dr. Seuss’s oeuvre, every Fly Guy adventure, and every Elephant & Piggie book? I tried to offer the usual fare: Frog and Toad, Frances, Little Bear. All of those excellent… but Toby just didn’t seem to be reaching for them over and over on his own. Before I could spend too much time considering the problem, Toby solved it himself. As much as I love introducing my children to great books, I love it even more when they discover one on their own.
A few months ago, Toby checked out BENNY AND PENNY in JUST PRETEND by Geoffrey Hayes from the school library. He (or we) read it at least once a day for two weeks. He asked his librarian at school for more Benny and Penny books, but she didn’t have any others. Our local library had another one, but it was checked out. I found BENNY AND PENNY in THE BIG NO-NO, finally, at a local independent book store.
It wasn't until we got the third book, BENNY AND PENNY in THE TOY BREAKER, that I realized these were comic books. I know, it is hardly a surprise that kids like comic books. Max was very into the Bone series for a while… and both Max and Toby love all of my old CALVIN & HOBBES anthologies. But I’ve never come across comic books like the BENNY AND PENNY books. These are bound like regular books with hard covers and so are very durable. The stories are exactly right for early readers, unlike, for example, CALVIN & HOBBES. (I started questioning my wisdom in sharing those books after Max and Toby locked me out of our hotel room so that they could eat all of the cookies… and then said they got the idea from CALVIN & HOBBES.) And, of course, with comic books, there are many pictures per page to help provide visual support for the story… even if a child could only read a few of the words, there is enough action in the pictures in the BENNY AND PENNY comics that the story would be easily understood.
‘I love the pictures so much. The mice are so cute!’ said Toby when I asked him why he was first interested in the Benny and Penny books. After reading the newest one, THE TOY BREAKER, Toby said he thought all of the arguing was funny and also liked how Cousin Bo finally learned how to play nicely. He recommends it for ‘anyone who likes to read.’”
--Three Boys and Books
"Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker (by Geoffrey Hayes) brings back the engaging mouse siblings for another backyard tale. When Cousin Bo comes over, Benny and Penny hurry to hide their toys, and, even more importantly, their treasure map. Because Cousin Bo is a Toy Breaker! But with Bo around, how can Benny and Penny find the loot? And will Penny's poor Monkey, ripped by the careless paws of Bo, recover? When Bo gets into trouble of his own, he (somewhat miraculously) becomes a nicer mouse, and all ends well. A pleasant story of the perils of group play."
In their third adventure, Benny and Penny must put up their cousin Bo – an infamous toy breaker. As Benny and Penny try to hide their toys and distract Bo everyone’s feelings get hurt. Eventually the mice all learn to play together and keep the toys in one piece.
Simple, funny and appealing to new readers, the latest Benny and Penny lives up to its predecessors but does not need to be read in any particular order. Hayes’s illustrations are expressive and walk the fine line between cute and cutesy perfectly. The comic format will appeal to wide range of readers. A welcome addition to easy reader collections."
"Acquired: Received a review copy from Raw Junior, LLC.
Reason for Reading: My son read aloud to me as his reader. Summary: Benny and Penny have just got everything all prepared to play pirate treasure map when their mom announces that cousin Bo has arrived to play. Cousin Bo wrecks everything so Benny and Penny quickly hide all the toys they can see, including their newly made treasure map. At first B & P don't want to play with Bo, then Bo finds a few toys, breaking them, then he finds the map and takes off with it and a chase pursues with everyone becoming rather rude to one another, both sides end up with troubles, apologies are made and then they find a game to play where nothing can get broken.
Comments: This book is just at the level for my struggling reader where he almost has no problems at all. He can pretty much fly through the reading with only a few stumbles. Even though he is a bit older that the intended age he finds the antics of Benny and Penny comic and doesn't feel like the book is too young for him at all. He has read the other Benny and Penny books and I think this one may just be his favourite as he certainly had a lot of fun with the story. Myself, I can't say enough good things for any Toon Book. I've never been disappointed yet. This, like all the rest, is engaging, funny, and entices my struggling reader to want to read more than I ask of him in a sitting. A good read and a fun story."
--Back To Books
"It's always delightful when a good series stays good. Geoffrey Hayes, (author of one of my favorite childhood books Patrick Eats His Dinner, which I would love to have my own copy of but the paperback price is currently $562. Sigh.) has written his third in the award-winning Toon series, Benny and Penny. Benny and Penny, two delightfully realistic siblings, have weathered the storms of playing together and meeting a new friend. Now they have to deal with....The Toy Breaker.
The Toy Breaker is their cousin and he just doesn't play nicely! He's rough and mean and he teases! Not to mention breaking toys! Is there a way they can play with Cousin Bo? Or is he just too mean?
One of the things I love about the Benny and Penny series is that Hayes doesn't trivialize or simplify children's developing social relationships. Yes, Cousin Bo is mean and he teases. But a lot of the damage is caused by Benny and Penny trying to hide and hold on to their toys. On the other hand, Bo's teasing really does hurt the two siblings. The solution isn't a lesson in getting along or forced on them by the outside intervention of an adult; the micelings come up with their own solution, where everyone gives a little and makes up for hurting each other.
As in the previous volumes, the art is adorable but not too cutesy with plenty of facial expressions to expand the dialogue and a clear progression of the story through the panels.
Our library patrons can look forward to another winner with Benny and Penny and I can't wait to pass it out when it's released in April!"
--Jean Little Library
"Appropriately takes the action away from bedtime and into the high noon of unsupervised backyard play, with mouse-siblings Benny and Penny confronting the trouble-making antics of visiting Cousin Bo. A comic-book format adds to the mischief."
--The Horn Book Magazine
"The popular and Giesel Award-winning mouse sibs (Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!, 2009) meet their greatest challenge yet when hard-playing, toy-breaking cousin Bo saunters over for a visit. Ignoring their efforts to stonewall him, Bo aggressively messes up the sandbox, snatches Benny's homemade treasure map away and generally makes a nuisance of himself while sneering 'Oh, are you going to tell your Mommy?' Eventually the tables turn when Bo needs help getting un-stuck from a hole in the fence, and by the end he shows preliminary signs of acquiring better socialization skills. All three furry playmates sport eloquent eyebrows and other easy-to-spot emotional markers in Hayes's sunny backyard scenes--and even prereaders may note that when toys get broken here, it's while Benny or Penny are trying to grab them out of Bo's hands. A thought-provoking episode just right
for the I Can Read set."
"Benny and Penny have lots of great toys. They also have a cousin, Bo, who has a reputation as a toy breaker. When he comes for a visit, they try to hide all of their toys so he can't find them. Will they be able to get through his visit with all of their toys intact? Fans of Benny and Penny's earlier adventures will enjoy this new story, perfect for kids who are just learning to read. Reading this book made me struggle between my memories of being a kid and my headspace of being an adult. The adult in me wondered if Benny and Penny were being too hard on Bo, if maybe he acts out because others treat him badly. But then I would remember what it was like to be a kid and have to play with people who took over, who broke things, who just ruined it. I think it's a book that will speak to a lot of people - and the positive ending a good message for everyone of any age."
--Crowding the Book Truck
"For the complete, fascinating story on the creative people behind TOON BOOKS and the impetus for starting a line of graphic novels for beginning readers, check out my review from last year. With the release of a third Benny & Penny book, Benny & Penny and the Toy Breaker, I thought these books written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes deserved their own review. Also, TOON Books and Geoffrey Hayes have started Benny and Penny and Their Friends, a blog for kids where you can find comic to print and color and a weekly contest to fill in the speech/thought bubble from a new illustration by Hayes. Kids can leave comments on what they think the character is saying or thinking and Hayes will pick his favorite comments and post them. Finally, TOON has recently added a super cool new feature on their website, a Cartoon Maker! My son and I spent quite a bit of time making new pages from all the different TOON books that we love. Actually, it is so easy that my non-reading 5 year old could navigate the program himself.
In my house, all of the TOON Books are superb picture books that will some day become primers for my son when he is ready to read. I don't think that that can be said for many, if any beginning reader books. Beginning readers books are usually used read by emerging readers for that purpose alone. With the exception of the collection of TOON Books, Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books and Mo Willem's Elephant & Piggie series, I rarely if ever read a primer out loud at story time. But, all of these aforementioned are in heavy rotation at home and at the bookstore. What first drew me to Benny and Penny were the illustrations. The colorfully bright, softly shaded artwork reminded me of a cross between Beatrix Potter and the classic Tom and Jerry cartoons I watched as a kid. And, his pictures are filled with little details that kids will love, from the packing crate-pirate ship in the first book to the trail of broken toys in the third book, there is always something to seek out and inform the story that is unfolding.
On top of that, Hayes does a great job with his characters. Benny can be a bossy, know-it-all big brother and Penny can be a nosy, annoying little sister. But, the two can also be inventive, inquisitive, creative and always, by the end of the book at least, caring and connected. In the first book, the two only have to work things out between themselves. In Benny and Penny and the Big No-No, the two find themselves breaking some rules to find out where their missing toys are disappearing to, and make a new friend in the adventure.
Another aspect of Geoffrey Hayes' Benny and Penny books that I especially like is the setting. The siblings, thus far, are seen playing on their own in their backyard. Mom is never seen, but we know she is nearby and keeping an eye on the two because Benny calls out to her in the first book when he is trying to get rid of Penny by asking if it's her nap time. There is both a sense of security and a freedom to explore that Hayes creates in this backyard. There is a playhouse, a sandbox, a wading pool, a slide and a swing - things that will be familiar to most little kids. There is also a fence, a boundary that is sometimes crossed, but without major repercussions or danger.
In Benny and Penny and the Toy Breaker, a visit from Cousin Bo, the Toy Breaker, causes distress and hurt feelings for everyone. Benny and Penny rush to hide their favorite toy when they learn that Cousin Bo is coming over, but they are not fast enough. Bo manages to break a few toys and discovers the treasure map that Benny had been working on and threatens to destroy that as well. Benny and Penny try to reason with Bo and incorporate him into their play, but frustrations mount and Bo runs off, only to become stuck in a hole in the fence, things take a turn for the better."
--Books 4 Your Kids
“Some of you might already know that Booking Son and I are huge fans of the Toon Books. We recently received BENNY AND PENNY IN THE TOY BREAKER by Geoffrey Hayes, and we thought it was extremely cute. Booking Son went so far as to say that he loved it!
Brother and sister team Benny and Penny are back in THE TOY BREAKER. This time, their cousin Bo is coming over to play, and Benny and Penny are afraid that Bo will destroy all of their toys. (I know I remember hiding my favorite toys when a few kids came over, and I'm sure other kids will relate to Benny and Penny's feelings.) The three little mice have to find something to play together that makes everyone happy!
THE TOY BREAKER is ideal for beginner/early readers. It's classified as a level 2 Toon book and it has a great mix of pictures and easy-to-read words. This book is also filled with lots of humor to keep the readers entertained as well as a cute message. As a mom, I just love that the graphics reinforce the story and that kids can use all of the adorable pictures to help them figure out the unfamiliar words.”
"Benny and Penny return for another adventure. This time they have to figure out how to avoid playing with Cousin Bo, The Toy Breaker (TOON Books). While the two mice prepare for a day of following a treasure map to search for loot, they hear Bo’s unwelcome voice. As quickly as possible, they hide all their toys to save them from Bo’s destruction. Unfortunately, the few items that remain quickly fall victim to Bo’s rough play, including Penny’s beloved stuffed Monkey, which loses a leg. When Benny and Penny threaten to tell about Bo’s antics, he taunts them by asking, —Are you going to tell your mommy?? After he needs help to get out of a tight spot, Bo and his cousins come up with a compromise: play without toys so nothing will get broken. Bo even apologizes for hurting Monkey. Geoffrey Hayes has come up with another humorous graphic novel for beginning readers, many of whom may have had experiences with someone like Bo."
--Center for Children’s & Young Adult Books
"If a picture is worth a thousand words, consider the wealth of story possible in a book that combines illustrations and text. This is the secret that makes graphic novels and comics so popular with kids of all ages. The stories told in this format can be richly nuanced without requiring a high level of literacy: Because the artwork provides context, the vocabulary can be advanced beyond the reader's ordinary comfort level. Here's a look at a few remarkable new kids' graphic novels:
Learning to read is fun with Toon Books like Benny and Penny in The Toybreaker ($12.95, ages 4-7). 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. In January, Hayes's 'Benny and Penny in The Big No-No' became the first graphic novel to win the 2010 Geisel Award, given annually by the American Library Association to the best beginning reader. 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 'toybreaker' cousin Bo. In humorous contrast to the emotion-packed story, Hayes's watercolor illustrations depict a cozy world reminiscent of Beatrix Potter. Smile (Scholastic, $10.99; ages 8-12) features a cover that beckons to tween girls: On an aqua background, a yellow smiley face sports shiny silver braces. Inside, readers will discover author-illustrator Raina Telgemeier's comic and candid autobiographical account of the dental disaster that endangered her self-image. We're talking, of course, about having to wear braces when you're a middle schoolgirl. But the real focus of 'Smile' is Telgemeier's search for identity, a universal experience with which readers will readily identify. Her illustrations bear her trademark cartoonist touch, while the story's emotion is highlighted by the work of colorist Stephanie Yue. Colorists often are overlooked, but their work can add significant depth and emotional resonance. Note: Yue's work also can be seen in the forthcoming Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye: Hamster and Cheese (Graphic Universe, $6.95, ages 4-8), written by Colleen AF Venable.
Color and dreamlike imagery shape an entire world in Eric Shanower's adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Marvel Comics, $29.99; ages 7 and up). Illustrator Skottie Young's charming and whimsical art brings new life and humor to familiar characters. Toto has never been so cute, nor so ferocious, and the mustachioed tin woodsman is as stolid and reliable as if he were made of steel. Colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu's luminous hues transport young readers into the fantastic realm; no need for musical interludes as his artwork positively sings on the page.
Fans of last year's 'Rapunzel's Revenge' will remember Jack, the trickster sidekick. Now Jack is back as the star of Calamity Jack (Bloomsbury, $14.99; ages 8-12), in which he and Rapunzel battle Blunderboar, a nattily attired but power-hungry giant who has imprisoned Jack's mother. Once again authors (and spouses) Shannon and Dean Hale have concocted a story that will have readers on the edge of their seats. The beautifully drawn illustrations by Nathan Hale (no relation) add verve, detail and humor to the story.
Tough, resourceful and nervy, the titular character of Jake Parker's Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher (Scholastic, $10.99; ages 7-12) is an appealing hero for kids. Missile Mouse works for the Galactic Security Agency. When a scientist with the cumulative hereditary memory of his entire race is captured, the GSA's top brass assigns Missile Mouse to rescue him before secrets of destructive technology are once again unleashed on the universe. Parker has an animator's eye for action and timing, and characters ricochet and rebound within the confines of their panels while the story roars forward at a rocket's pace.
For more great kids' graphic novels, check out: The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook (Bloomsbury, $10.99; ages 7-12), written and illustrated by Eleanor Davis; the gorgeously painted Mouse Guard Series by David Peterson (Archaia Studios, $24.95 each; ages 8-12); Kazu Kibuishi's brilliant Amulet Series (Scholastic, $10.99 each; ages 8-12), as well as his collection of web comics titled Copper (Scholastic, $12.99; ages 8 up)."
--The Washington Post
"Benny and Penny In The Toy Breaker - Geoffrey Hayes returns with his two popular mouse siblings Benny and Penny as they face another difficult situation. Their Cousin Bo is coming to visit, and he always manages to break their toys when he plays with them. Benny and Penny try to hide their toys and not play with Bo. The cousins must find a way to play without something getting torn, ripped or snatched away. Hayes shows once again his skill at not just showing kids reacting authentically in realistic situations, but that he can do it in away that kids will enjoy. This is a must for an elementary library collection."
--School Library Journal
"The delightful mouse siblings, Benny and Penny, are back in their book. This time, they try to hide all their toys from Cousin Bo when he visits, because Bo tends to break their toys whenever he plays with them. They try to avoid Bo as they go on a treasure hunt, but he keeps wanting to play with them. Hayes, who won the 2010 Geisel Award for Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! depicts another true-to-life
situation as the young cousins work out their relationship in a manner authentic to the way children resolve their own issues. The story has just the right amount of conflict and tension for young readers, and Hayes' simple panel and page designs and dialogue balloons continue to provide an easy and appealing introdution to reading--and to reading comics."
"The latest Toon Books release sees another in Geoffrey Hayes’ award-winning Benny And Penny series, the gentlest of adventures of two little mice.
The last Benny And Penny book – The Big No-No! won the prestigious 2009 American Library Association’s Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for 'the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English'. A huge honour, especially for a publisher who only published 3 books in 2009 (and another of these; Jeff Smiths’ Little Mouse was one of the Giesel Honor books – that’s some hit rate).
And anyone who picks up any of the Toon Books series can easily see why they’re so successful and so appealing to children; they’re easy works of simple clarity, light on text, heavy on fun and featuring some delightful characters. And they’re all, to a greater or lesser degree, really great little stories.
Benny And Penny are two little mice, the classic older brother and annoying little sister, having fun and learning how to get along with each other and the world – something that could be seen as boringly educational and lecturing if it weren’t done so delightfully.
The Toy Breaker follows the pattern of the two previous books, an adventure undertaken (a treasure map of their back garden), a spanner thrown into the works (their troublesome, toy-breaking and gently bullying cousin Bo) and an ending which sees everything resolved with a little lesson learnt (a remorseful Bo learning that it is possible to play nicely after all).
Benny And Penny in the Toy Breaker is a simple, beautifully illustrated tale, ideal for younger readers with it’s recognisable characters and situations. But I particularly enjoyed this one for the moments of delightful comedy throughout the tale:
It’s a really lovely book, the best of the Benny And Penny books so far, with wonderful little insights in the way the three little mice play – just like real children will. And it’s this truth that children see in Benny And Penny, that’s what makes it so appealing and enjoyable, over and over. And it’s not just younger readers – Molly (aged 10) always grabs each new Toon Books release as soon as they arrive and I always enjoy them straight after that."
--Forbidden Planet International
"The award-winning series is back for a third entry. Benny and Penny, two cute little mice — okay one cute mouse and her older brother — are hunting for loot! Benny is making a map and they’re going to hunt and dig up treasure. Their adventure is just about to start when cousin Bo shows up. Cousin Bo is naughty! He breaks toys and ruins things. Benny and Penny try their best to hide their toys before Bo shows up, but they aren’t quick enough. Sure enough, Bo runs around ruining toys, including taking their treasure map. Benny and Penny decide to seek treasure without Bo — but he is secretly shadowing his two cousins. Bad feelings ensue when they argue and Bo breaks Monkey, Penny’s stuffed animal. In the end, the three cousins talk out their problems. They decide to forgo hunting loot and play without toys – 'that way nothing can get broken.' I love the idea of easy reader comic books. It really is a wonderful partnership. Early readers rely heavily on picture clues to determine text and comics/graphic novels rely heavily on pictures to drive the story. Among other things, using comics for early readers also assist in showing readers that text moves from left to right. I also love how comic words like 'poom' or 'yo-ho-hee' are great for beginning readers who can use their phonics skills to decipher these made-up words. Benny and Penny make me smile and Bo is a geekishly naughty, he’s funny. The colored pencil (I think) drawings are sweet. The text is just right for an easy reader (I did a readability graph for The Toy Breaker and came up with an easier-than-first-grade reading level). There is a lot of repetition, as Benny and Penny hunt for trees, arrows and the like. This is a story that any child can relate to — playing with children who you don’t get along with. I found this book to be another excellent offering for the Toon Books catalog.
I received a reviewing copy of The Toy Breaker by Geoffrey Hayes from the publisher. This book is being donated to the library where I work for patron use."
"Shifting from science to sheer playground play, Geoffrey Hayes returns to the TOON banner for a third go-round with BENNY AND PENNY IN THE TOY BREAKER. In it, mice siblings Benny and Penny attempt to go in search of a secret treasure, to which Benny has an elaborate, Crayola-scrawn map, but are thwarted at every turn by their nosy cousin, Bo. This, like Hayes’ previous BENNY AND PENNY adventures, is cute, charming stuff — the perfect mix of big pictures and short words to hook a young child into the pleasures of reading (and not just comics)."
"The latest Benny and Penny book features Bo, an infamous toy breaker, visiting our mousy friends for some playtime. Of course, the siblings want to keep everything from him, and in so doing assist him in destroying several of their favorite playthings. Everything works out in the end, though, once Bo shows remorse and Benny and Penny stop worrying so much about material things. Of all the books in this series, this one has been my least favorite. It seems odd and embarrassing to say a children's graphic novel has too many words, but I often felt as though the actor mice who played Benny, Penny and Bo had haggled with writer Geoffrey Hayes over how many lines each of them had in the script. However, I'm not the target audience for this book, but, as I've mentioned before, I have my own test market at home: my oldest son (4).
He enjoyed it. The parts with onomatopoeia and naughty behavior tickled him the most, and he didn't seem to mind my tripping over myself time and time again when adding exposition like 'said Bo,' or 'Benny said' to help him keep up with the characters (which was tedious for me). He was able to predict the pattern after a while (see toy, play with toy, fight over toy, break toy), and he knew when I prompted him via question that Bo, who had been teasing the kids about calling our for their mother, yelled 'Mommy!' when he gets stuck in a fence hole. Whether he recognized the word or the story structure, I am not sure, but that was an impressive moment for us both, and he genuinely seemed to love the irony. So, Benny and Penny and the Toy Breaker pass the son test, but this one will be a book I hope he doesn't ask me to read over and over.
It comes to mind that some might be interested in knowing how I read comics to my son. While some claim to have done research that says kids can't put images in a sequence until a certain age, my son seems to have caught on quickly to filling in the gutters and reading comics. He actually seems to have regressed a bit on this lately, to be honest. We have some wordless kids comics thanks to a friend at :01 that my son loves very much. With our help, he's learned the gist of these books and that it is also acceptable to read the story differently from time to time. With kids comics with words, we do the same as we do with wordless comics: we point to specific panels and items within each panel, explain or narrate, then move to the next panel and specifics within it. When there are words, we point to the word balloons and the characters speaking and often fill in with 'said X' or 'Y exclaimed.' We then attend to specifics that the images reveal and make comments, ask questions, or prompt him to respond somehow, often with 'what do you think will happen next?' or other prediction-based prompts.
My son finally seemed to get into Free Comic Book Day this year, and he's been toting his comics around everywhere, immune to his younger brother's destruction of the covers, which upsets me but no one else in the house ('Honey, don't you want to bag and board that between readings??' :) ), and he's been wanting us to read them to him at bedtime rather than his other storybooks. He's most interested in learning every character's name, then what they can do (in super hero comics), then in reading and rereading the story. The best is when he 'reads' the stories back to us, which he immediately wanted to do with The Toy Breaker."
"Benny and Penny make their third appearance in this little story about a common childhood concern – a toy breaker. The pair dread their cousin Bo’s visits because he always manages to break their toys. Hayes’s story rings true to childhood interactions, and the illustrations are adorable. This book would be perfect for any early reader."
--The Blue Stocking Society
"Benny and his little sister Penny have a big problem—their cousin Bo is coming to visit. Every toy he plays with breaks! They come up with a plan to hide all of their toys, but how are they going to play with no toys? As in Benny and Penny in Just Pretend and Benny and Penny in the Big No-No, Hayes tells a simple story about a situation that will be instantly familiar to young children. He doesn’t preach and he doesn’t talk down to readers. His characters are realistic children, even if they are drawn as mice. They solve problems the way that kids would solve them, sometimes crying for their mom and sometimes working things out on their own. His simple text is easy for early readers to follow on their own, and complicated words like loot are defined within the text. Contractions are occasionally used, but they are often next to a text bubble that has the full words, so it makes it easier for beginning readers to see how the contractions are created. Hayes’s art has a picture-book quality to it but still uses the comic medium to full effect. The color palette is soft but not so soft as to be babyish, and it seems to be done in pencils, giving the book its picture-book quality. But unique use of perspective and a variety of panel styles show that Hayes knows comics. The fonts are clear and easy to read, with certain words highlighted as in comic books. The combination of picture book and comic book make this an excellent transition book both for early readers and for parents who aren’t graphic novel readers. Whether readers are looking for an early-reader title with a realistic, interesting plot or they want a graphic novel that they can read just like their older brothers or sisters (or like mommy and daddy!), Hayes’ Benny and Penny series is some of the best of the already excellent Toon Book line. After The Toy Breaker, readers will be eager to see more of Benny and Penny."
--Graphic Novel Reporter