In Benny and Penny in the Just Pretend, Penny wants to play with her big brother Benny. But Benny thinks little sisters are a pain. Maybe if they play hide and seek, Penny will hide and Benny can just not look for her. Benny has second thought but when he goes to find Penny and she’s gone! Benny and Penny epitomize the quickly changing feeling between siblings. They can be irritating but also so much fun to play with!
Benny and Penny and the Big No-No! is about dealing with new people. Benny is concerned. A new kid has moved in next door. What is this kid like? A girl? A boy? What do they like to play? And now Benny can’t find his bucket. Did the new kid take it? That would be a big no-no! There’s nothing to do but climb the fence and go look for it (also a big no-no). Benny finds a bucket and takes it, thinking it’s his. But when he climbs back into his own yard, there is his bucket! Now what should he do?
Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! is a lovely little tale about making assumptions too quickly. Hayes tells this story simply with just enough text to convey the story but letting the pictures do the narration. He doesn’t describe Penny’s irritation when Benny says, “Girls are cry-babies,” he just shows Penny sticking out her tongue at Benny.
Hayes’ beautiful drawings complement these simple stories. The line and colored pencil drawings are perfectly rendered, with just enough detail to fill out a scene without being cluttered. The graphic layout is very dynamic. When Benny and Penny argue and Benny’s pirate ship (his crate) tips over, the whole panel tips with it. When they fall out of the box, the falling box covers two panels, with Benny and Penny falling in one panel and landing in the other. Art Spiegelman (of Maus fame) advised on the books. They are a great example of the graphic novel form for children (as opposed to comics for kids or picture books for kids).
Benny and Penny in Just Pretend
Toon Books, 2008