Reviews of Benny and Penny in Just Pretend
★ "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."
"In this graphic mini-novel, a mouse in pirate dress fends off the overtures of his persistent little sister (garbed as a princess), then turns out to be more of a wuss than she is when it comes to bugs. Launching an easy-reader series with this tried-and-true narrative arc, this episode features two very young-looking sibs moving through an idyllic outdoorsy setting and, after a series of tiffs and temporary setbacks, sharing a make-up hug before embarking together on an imagined pirate adventure. Framed in well-separated panels of diverse shape, the art incorporates 'plewds,' 'briffits' and other visual conventions from comics, along with a mix of dialogue balloons and boxed narrative snippets. Emergent readers should have no trouble following along - or (except perhaps for only children) identifying with the situation."
"Appropriate for newly independent readers...The sibling relationship is sweetly and realistically portrayed. A fresh and fun choice for beginning readers--especially those discouraged by text-heavy pages--and for sharing aloud."
--School Library Journal
"Soft, pastel, full-color illustrated panels of various sizes and shapes fill the pages, while word count contained primarily within dialog bubbles is kept to a minimum, letting facial expressions and action enhance the storyline. These two warm, fuzzy characters will be lovingly embraced by emergent readers, parents, and teachers alike."
--Children's & Teen Librarian
★ "Hayes, creator of the Otto and Uncle Tooth mysteries, chooses mouse siblings as the subjects for this comic book cum easy reader, first in a planned series. Jazzy, multipanel layouts add a contemporary dimension to simply worded episodes about an eager younger sister and standoffish brother who relish their rivalry more than they admit. Benny fashions himself as a buccaneer with a black tricorn hat and a wooden sword; when he stands in a crate, a thought bubble shows him aboard a galleon that flies the Jolly Roger. Sweet-natured Penny, clad in baby-blue princess gear, wants to play, too, and he automatically rebuffs her: 'No! Pirates are brave, and you are a cry-baby.' At last Benny initiates a game of hide-and-seek, with no intention of seeking—at least, until Penny disappears. Hayes’s colored-pencil pictures set the action near the ground, in cozy panels depicting a secure woodland space. Shallow backgrounds ensure that the outside world never intrudes, except when Benny is startled by bugs that don’t faze his sister. A close-range perspective gives readers a good look at Benny and Penny’s facial expressions, supplying the context for the dialogue. These skillful drawings do just what they attempt: they lever beginning readers right into the story."
--Publishers Weekly (starred)
More reviews for Benny and Penny in Just Pretend
"My greatest discovery this year had to be the entire catalog of TOON BOOKS, a few of which I will highlight, all of which are eminently readable out loud. Benny and Penny in Just Pretend and Benny and Penny and the Big No-No are a treat. Besides being great sibling stories with an ring of familiarity, Geoffrey Hayes illustrations are evocative of the artwork of books from my childhood. Delicate colors and rich details remind me of Beatrix Potter, among others."
"Artist Geoffrey Hayes has illustrated many other children's books including Margaret Wise Brown's When the Wind Blew. But his latest efforts are on Benny and Penny series published by TOON Books in NYC. These charming handcrafted drawings give these stories a soft and sweet old fashioned feel and somewhat timeless quality to them. Both stories, "Just Pretend" and "The Big No-No!", capture with great accuracy the quick and sometimes bitter conflicts young siblings deal with many times throughout any given day. I think it is this that makes these stories engaging for the kids. I think the kids actually connect with the characters in the stories, quite simply Benny and Penny speak directly to them often responding to situations exactly like a preschooler would, case in point, at one point Penny proclaims, "I had to go pee-pee!". Then again, there are the Vaudevillian prat falls and other physical humor peppered throughout these stories that get a chuckle out of them and keep them turning the pages."
"Hayes successfully combines a comic-book format with effective easy-reader elements to introduce two delightful mouse siblings. Penny, clothed in pale-blue princess regalia, persistently seeks out her older brother's company, though Benny, who is busy playing pirate, brushes her off repeatedly. Finally fed up, Benny calls her "a dumb, bad little sister!" and she dissolves into tears. After an offstage intercession from Mom, Benny suggests a game of hide-and-seek, hurries Penny into an outdoor storage bin, and tells her to stay put. Time passes without Penny making an appearance. Benny begins to miss her and is relieved when she finally turns up, explaining, "I had to go pee-pee!" After Penny proves her courage by shooing away a frightening dragonfly, Benny apologizes for his harsh words; the sibs share a 'huggy' and then play pirates together. The simple language, brief sentences, and clean layout-with large text, easy-to-follow sequencing, and an uncluttered design-are appropriate for newly independent readers. The warm-hued panel pictures contain enough detail to provide visual clues and create a sense of place while briskly propelling the action forward. The characters have expressive features that reflect changing emotions, and the sibling relationship is sweetly and realistically portrayed. A fresh and fun choice for beginning readers-especially those discouraged by text-heavy pages-and for sharing aloud.
"Co-editor of RAW magazine and New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly launches TOON Books, a line of paper-over-board comic books this spring designed to teach children to read....Here Hayes (illustrator of When the Wind Blew by Margaret Wise Brown) explores sibling dynamics with insight and humor. From the cover alone, readers glean a great deal of information: A caped mouse, wielding a sword, shouts, 'You can't play!' (in a dialogue bubble) as a mouse sporting a princess costume plunges a pirate cap into an inflatable swimming pool. In a sequence of four panels, Penny urges, "Play with me!" as she bumps the crate that Benny has fashioned into a pirate ship (his fantasy vessel appears in a thought balloon). Hayes has the universal sibling rapport down cold: 'I can play pirate, too,' says the toddler princess; 'No! Pirates are brave, and you are a cry-baby.' Tilted and broken panel illustrations amplify the escalating tension as the siblings' tussle sends the pirate ship flying. Hayes expertly balances the hurtful jabs with poignant moments--as when Benny tells his sister to hide in an abandoned chest and says, 'I'll try to find you,' then worries when she doesn't come looking for him ('Maybe she's hurt!'). Ultimately, Penny redeems herself in an act of heroism that gets Benny out of a jam. The brilliance comes in the pacing and the emotional truth of the two characters. Children will hope for more adventures from this furry duo."
"This launches TOON Books -- graphic novels written especially for beginning readers. As the story begins, readers meet Penny the adorable, little mouse decked out in her princess regalia as she searches for her big brother Benny who is deeply engrossed in a thrilling but solitary game of let's pretend. He's too busy being a brave, swashbuckling pirate to be bothered with Penny. His sister pleads desperately to join in the fun. Havoc ensues as she continues to bug her brother. As a ploy to get rid of her, Benny tells Penny to hide in a big box and he will try to find her. After some time of playing alone Benny begins to wonder why Penny hasn't called out to him wanting to be found. It's then that he discovers Penny is no longer hiding in the box. He becomes fearful that something dreadful has happened to her. He frantically searches everywhere before Penny allows herself to be found. By story's end, big brother realizes three important things: he really loves his sister; she is far braver than he ever imagined because she can shoo away big, scary dragonflies; and little sisters can be a lot of fun! Soft, pastel, full-color illustrated panels of various sizes and shapes fill the pages, while word count contained primarily within dialog bubbles is kept to a minimum, letting facial expressions and action enhance the storyline. These two warm, fuzzy characters will be lovingly embraced by emergent readers, parents, and teachers alike."
"Last week when Dylan and I were at the library, I decided to browse the children’s graphic novels section; I'm very glad I did, because I discovered two Benny and Penny books, and Dylan has discovered he likes graphic novels. Benny and Penny in Just Pretend is a sweet story about mice siblings Benny and Penny. In Just Pretend, Benny, the older brother, wants to play pretend pirates, but his little sister is persistent: she wants to play with her brother. She keeps bothering him and he makes her cry; eventually, he agrees to play hide and seek with her, but then conveniently doesn't do any seeking after she's hidden herself away. When he does go to look for her, she's disappeared! It turns out she had to go to the bathroom. The story ends nicely, with Penny saving Benny from some scary bugs. Many of the graphic novels I looked at last week were a little too old for Dylan; he's not yet ready for evil bad guys or heavy duty fighting or scary monsters. Benny and Penny in Just Pretend gave him cute illustrations (he spends as much time looking at the pictures in books as he does reading the stories) and also the confidence of reading a book that, while not quite a chapter book, isn't a picture book, either. Up next for us in this series? Benny and Penny in The Big No-No!"
--Learn Play Fun
"Benny just wants to play at being a pirate with his cardboard box ship and his wooden sword. But his annoying little sister wants to play as well, dressed in her finest princess outfit. Benny doesn’t want to play with her and calls her a cry-baby and tries to get mom to take her away. This nefarious plan goes awry when he makes Penny cry and he has to play with her. And what better way to get rid of your sister than a one sided game of hide and seek? So Benny ditches his sister just so he can make believe and play his pirate game. But when he realises that his sister is missing he begins to realise that maybe these games are better with two. Benny and Penny in Just Pretend is yet another delightful little tale from Francoise Mouly’s TOON Books, told with deceptively simple layouts and delicately old-fashioned artwork. Geoffrey Hayes tells an all too believable tale of what it feels like to be someone’s older sibling. It’s no surprise at the book’s end that he talks of his own brother and all the fights they’ve had as youngsters. All of the frustration and all of the love is represented brilliantly in the pages of Benny and Penny. This is a lovely, warm, charming graphic novel that will be immediately loved and understood by its readers.
"Benny the mouse is busy pretending to be brave Benny the Pirate. He wears a pirate hat and carries a wooden sword; a wooden box makes a perfect pirate ship. Benny’s pesky little sister, Penny (dressed as a princess), wants to play pirate too, but Benny bossily declares that she can’t play since pirates are brave while Penny is a cry-baby. When their mother insists that Benny play with his little sister, the wily Benny convinces Penny to hide in a box so they can play hide-and-seek - except that Benny has no intention of actually looking for her. But when Benny runs into some scary bugs, it’s Penny who bravely chases away the bugs. The siblings are thus restored to harmony as Benny hugs Penny and tells her he was only joking when he called her a cry-baby. This adorable graphic novel with its beautiful illustrations and simple text captures a sibling relationship that is authentic and sweet without being cloying. Children’s author Geoffrey Hayes has created a thoroughly charming and witty book that begs to be read over and over again."
--Curled Up with a Kid's Book
"Children's books and comics share a greater bond than I think most readers realize. I'm not talking about subject material here, but rather the actual form of storytelling. Children's picture books are more often than not a series of images matched with words, the two working in unison to tell a story. Sound familiar? When Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman launched the Little Lit anthologies, in which comic artists and children's book authors alike told stories for kids in comic book format, it was a perfect bridge between the two mediums. Now, Mouly's new TOON Books line takes that a step further, with individual books meant for younger readers that are told in a comic book format. Geoffrey Hayes's Benny and Penny in Just Pretend is aimed for readers four years and up, so if you're expecting a deeply complex, intricate story with huge twists and turns you'll be a bit disappointed. That doesn't mean that Hayes dumbs down his story, though, just that he's recognizing what his target age group will easily follow and enjoy. Benny and Penny are both young mice who are playing outside. Benny wants to play pirates, while Penny just wants to do whatever Benny does. Of course, Benny doesn't want to do anything with his little sister. But no matter what Benny does, he just can't shake Penny's attention or affection. It's a fun little story, and Hayes does a great job of making his characters feel like children; while Benny is the supposedly tough older brother, he's still scared of bugs and lizards, and at times his logic is so childlike it's hard not to laugh at the situations. Anyone who's had an adoring admirer like Penny will certainly see just how accurate a depiction Hayes did of her, and Hayes is able to make the reader both understand why Benny is so frustrated with her tagging along as well as sympathize and really love Penny's devotion. Best of all, though, is how well Benny and Penny feel like siblings; Benny knows just what will push Penny's buttons and does so masterfully, and the love/hate cycle that moves through Benny's emotions is just about perfect. I have to admit, though, that it was Hayes's beautiful art that really made Benny and Penny stand out for me. His colored pencils are just gorgeous to look at, rich in detail and shading, and his mice are nothing short of adorable. Going back through the book, I see new details every time; the purple hints inside their house through the windows, the many different colors in the dirt and grass (rather than a single shade of brown or green), or the dejected expression on Benny's face when he can't figure out what happened to Penny. It's a real joy to look at. Older readers are understandably not the target audience for Benny and Penny, but that doesn't mean it should be off their radar. I know quite a few children in the target audience that will be getting a copy of Benny and Penny for their birthdays this year, for starters. And let's face it, if I'm going to be reading a book to kids, Benny and Penny is definitely a great one to choose. It's easy to see why Benny and Penny is one of the three launch titles for the TOON Books line; it's a winner, there's no doubt about that.
--Comic Book Resources
"The primary way to help kids learn to read is to find books they like. There is something about a graphic novel or comic-type book that makes reading seem more enjoyable. I was always a little hesitant to bring home graphic novels from the library for my son, Isaac, because I didn’t want him to get used to reading that way and prefer it. But I found a set of graphic novels perfect for the preschool reader by TOON Books. The first one we found was Benny and Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes. Benny and Penny are brother and sister (mice). There are now three TOON Books that feature Benny and Penny: Benny and Penny in Just Pretend; Benny And Penny in The Big No-No; Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker. The books chronicle Benny and Penny’s adventures in playing together, playing with a neighbor and playing with a kid who they don’t want to (the toy breaker). Since 99% of what a kid is about is “playing” then you can be sure kids will like these books. The illustrations are sweet. The attitudes of the kids are moral and good–normal kids (or mice in this instance) trying to get along, have fun and enjoy life. All subjects a kid can relate to. My son took to Benny and Penny in Just Pretend so much that he had it memorized and basically was able to read it on his own after several read-throughs with me. It was really the first book he conquered on his own. We ended up buying it for him to celebrate."
--Reading to Isaac
"Benny And Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes is a fantastic book. Two little mice, brother and sister, fill the pages of this little book that kids will love. Older Benny wants to play alone at being pirates. His younger sister Penny wants to play together. So Benny, in a pique, tries to ditch her, so he can play by himself. After all, girls are cry-babies, not bold pirates. A lot of funny hiding and seeking ensues. Finally, giving in, they encounter a scary dragonfly as they crawl through the tall grass, and it is brave Penny who saves the day. The pictures can easily tell this story all on their own. Each page is a magnet for your eyes with simple details and layouts that are beautifully drawn. The expressions Hayes has put on their faces are perfect. The book is easy to read, that is, the writing level is perfectly aimed at the beginning reader level. I was surprised, though, that my younger daughter, age seven, had trouble with this book, and initially didn’t like it. Generally, she can’t resist a well illustrated, funny story for even 10 seconds, but that didn’t happen. It turned out that she was completely unfamiliar with the graphic layout of the book, with is word bubbles and brief, occasional narratives in boxes here and there. The story layout is not completely linear like the stories she was familiar with. She was confused by the story layout on the page. So I sat down with her and we read through it together while I pointed out to her the flow within the pages. She soon fell in love with this book and it’s wonderfully drawn story. Now, she wants the other books in the series, as well. I snagged pictures from Geoffrey Hayes’ website where you can find all the details you need to convince you to go out and buy each of the Benny and Penny books for your own kids, grand kids, and as birthday presents for your kids’ friends. These books are treasures. Geoffrey Hayes has won lots of acclaim for these books. Benny And Penny in Just Pretend has won these honors: Booklist Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth; Iowa Goldfinch Award; Maryland Blue Crab Young Readers Honor Book; Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year. There are two other books in the Benny and Penny series; Benny And Penny in The Big No-No
picked up these honors: Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner; ALSC 2010 Notable Books for Children; Kirkus Reviews Best of 2009 Continuing Series. And the newest addition, Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker, has been chosen as a A Junior Library Guild Selection.
--Senor Parrot's Perch
"Benny and Penny are brother and sister. Benny is pretending to be a swashbuckling pirate and his little sister Penny wants to play with him too. But Benny doesn't want Penny tagging along after him, so he tells her 'No! Pirates are brave, and you are a cry-baby.' But their mom makes him, so he decides to play hide-and-seek, and hides her in a box. After a while of playing pirate on his own, he goes looking for her, but can't find her where he left her. He discovers he doesn't enjoy playing on his own as much. Eventually he finds Penny and he apologizes, and they both play pirate together. This a great book that depicts the eternal 'battle' between older and younger siblings (I remember those squabbles well) regarding playtime. The illustrations are sweet and colorful and realistically portray the emotions of Benny as he goes from an annoyed older brother to a loving and sharing brother. This is another great choice for beginning readers as the text is simple and repetitive. Look for the second book in this series, Benny and Penny in The Big No-No, currently in processing at our library!"
--Jenny the Librarian
"Geoffrey Hayes has another fun offering from Toon Books with his story about mouse siblings, Benny and Penny in Just Pretend. The mice are very cute - stress that, especially cute - but more importantly Hayes has nailed them as a very typical big brother who want to do his own thing and a very typical little sister who wants to be part of whatever he's doing. (I'm writing from direct little-sister experience here.) In Benny's case it is all about pretending to be a pirate and Penny is, well, Penny is not hat he considers pirate material. 'Pirates are brave and you are a cry-baby!' This sort of thing does not dissuade her, however, and Penny keep plugging away, trying to insert herself in Benny's game. Finally he snaps and gets a little mean: 'You are a dumb little sister!' which does cause a few tears. The kids eventually make up, with Penny showing she has the pirate stuff (big time) and Benny apologizing. It's a message book (as is Otto) but it's such a fun lesson with amusing little characters that young readers (or listeners) are going to fall of it big time. Hayes is both writer and artist here and he draws Benny particularly well; his anger and frustration leap off the page and appear in sharp contrast to Penny's patient assault on her brother's fortress of solitude. (Actually, it's a box that he pretends is a ship, but the message is the same.) I found Benny and Penny to be quite engaging and like Otto, head and shoulders above the standard 'early reader' fare. These books are 100% the way to go for action orientated little ones, especially of the kindergarten age. TOON Books is onto something really smart with these titles and is certainly a publisher to watch."