Saturday, May 1, 2010

Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker by Geoffrey Hayes

Another seemingly perfect day for Benny and Penny is underway. They have a treasure map that leads to loot, spoons and pails for digging, and a spyglass. The day quickly takes a turn for the worse, however, with an announcement:

“Benny…Penny! Cousin Bo is here.”

Cousin Bo! Oh no! All the toys must be hidden, and fast, because Cousin Bo always breaks them. Sure enough, even though Cousin Bo’s asks, “Where are all your toys?” he finds one almost immediately. The paddleball smacks Benny in the eye, Bo gives Benny a RAZZ!, and he refuses to give the toy back. Bo only lets go when he notices the treasure map. And of course, the paddleball breaks.

Geoffrey Hayes and Toon-Books continue to create and publish excellent graphic novels for younger readers. Not only to readers read the speech bubbles, but Bo steals the map with a SNATCH!, runs through the kiddie-pool with a SPLASH!, and collides with Benny with a POOM!. Sound effects and strong expressions – Penny’s NO! and GAAAAA!! for example – enhance readers’ experience on nearly every page.

Benny and Penny’s attempts to continue their treasure hunt without Bo are unsuccessful as Bo taunts, tricks, and teases them continuously. When his antics break Penny’s beloved monkey, Benny’s reaction drives Bo away. He says he’ll find a new friend.

Instead, he finds himself stuck under the fence. Crying.

Geoffrey Hayes gets his young characters exactly right. Benny and Penny are frustrated with how Bo treats their toys. Bo just wants to play but doesn’t express his desire well. All of them are quick to jump to conclusions and tears make more than one appearance, but in the end they discover – together – that toys and maps aren’t always needed.

Sometimes you can just play, and that way nothing gets broken.

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