Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker
written by Geoffrey Hayes
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.-- Snow Wildsmith