This title is part of Geoffrey Hayes’ Benny and Penny series, an early-reader comic series featuring two sweet but realistic little mice. In this story, big brother Benny is annoying little Penny as they get ready for bed. First he scares her, then he’s noisy, then he burps at her! Penny just wants to read her book, but she can’t even do that in peace because Benny prefers dinosaur books to princess books. But when Benny goes out into the dark to get his pirate hat, Penny gathers up her courage to follow after him and they both have some fun and scary adventures in the dark.
Benny and Penny, even though they’re furry and have tails, are very realistic little kids, from their short attention spans to their mostly friendly bickering. Their adventures have just the right blend of cozy surprises for beginning readers. This is a level 2 reader, which Toon Books directs at audiences that are emerging readers. It uses between 300 and 600 words and while it has some repetition and short sentences, it features a definite plot and a simple cast of characters.
Geoffrey Hayes’ art is cozy and colorful. It invests the shadows of the night scenes with a little shivery feeling, but nothing too scary or creepy. Benny and Penny, despite their adorable furriness, also have realistic and expressive faces showing naughtiness, surprise, fear, and finally sleepy contentment. The layout of the story blends clearly delineated panels with artwork that bleeds into the panels around it or is surrounded by white space. The panels and artwork are clearly laid out, making it easy for emerging readers to follow the action and text from panel to panel. The text in the speech bubbles is a little on the small side for an easy reader, but it adds emphasis to important phrases with bold type.
Although many publishers have jumped on the bandwagon of comic easy readers, Toon Books remains the leader in the field and Benny and Penny is one of their most popular series. It’s relatable, fun to read, and an especially good choice for younger readers reading above grade level as it doesn’t tackle the more complex plots of many easy readers at this level. The artwork is sweet and blends smoothly with the text, improving both visual and textual literacy. If your library is only going to own one Toon series, Benny and Penny is a good choice.