Thursday, May 19, 2011

Benny and Penny in The Big No-No, by Geoffrey Hayes (2009)

Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! (Toon)This 2010 Geisel medal winner (ALA award for early readers) is one of three Benny and Penny books published by TOON books.  And like the other Geisels I've looked at, it does not disappoint, despite the fact that early readers are such a tricky category, with many restrictions on vocabulary and sentence length.

TOON Books publishes high-quality comics at the standard three early-reading levels.  If you are a fan of graphic literature, you'll be hooked; if you're not, these books could change your mind.  The series editorial director is Francoise Mouly, and its advisor is her husband, New Yorker cartoonist Art Spiegelman.  Spiegelman wrote the Pulitzer-winning Maus books (yes, the comic books about the Holocaust), which were among the first to give graphic literature mainstream---and literary---respectability; he also produced one of TOON's early offerings, Jack and the Box. 

Benny and Penny are a brother and sister pair rendered in charming, dynamic colored pencil illustrations.  In this volume, they sneak into the new neighbors' yard to retrieve a pail, and both mystery and rather muddy adventures ensue when they meet the child who now lives there.  Part of the appeal of this story lies in the relationship between the siblings, who are eminently realistic both in their rivalries and in their loyalty.  They are also very energetic and fun-loving, and it's hard not to revel along with them in the glorious messes of children's outdoor exploration.  A gentle, playfully presented warning about making hasty assumptions lies beneath the more explicit lesson, and the children's mistakes are handled lightly and without judgment, reminding us these they are a natural part of a child's social education.  The story ends with some not-so-subtly physical comedy that will have young readers laughing aloud---and perhaps adults as well. 

Worth Noting:  Toon's online resources are wonderful; find them here.  Teachers will especially appreciate the file of thoughtful lesson plans.  The site also features a CarTOON maker that looks super fun.  Readers can also  access eleven TOON books online for free, with audio, through the TOON Book Reader---in five different languages (and intended partly to support ELL kids).  In fact, you can read The Big No-No for yourself here.

Miss E's Read:  She most loved the mud.  And it's abundant!!!

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