cover image Benny and Penny: in Just Pretend

Benny and Penny: in Just Pretend

Geoffrey Hayes, . . RAW Junior/Toon, $12.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-9799238-0-7

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 (see Silly Lilly , reviewed p. 69). 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. Ages 4-up. (Apr.)