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Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker
by Geoffrey Hayes
Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95
This is my favorite of the Benny and Penny books so far. It isn’t that I’ve disliked the previous two books in the brother/sister series as much as this new entry, about an unruly cousin that comes over to play, seems a bit more lively and playful, both in the layouts and in the art itself, which has a frenetic and loose — but never sloppy — quality. It’s a pretty energetic and fast-paced book, even by young reader standards. You sense Hayes had a lot of fun putting this together and his good humor is infectious. Obviously it’s not going to challenge anyone over the age of seven, but I’d easily recommend it for it’s intended audience.
Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework
by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler
Toon Books, 40 pages, $12.95.
If nothing else, this book introduced me to Loeffler’s work and I’m grateful for that. He’s got a clean, simple style I really like, with thick black outlines for his characters and a minimum of detail to keep the panels from becoming overly busy. His work is ideal for the children’s market.
This was Toon Books first entry into nonfiction, and it’s a toe-dipping affair, with the two title alien characters landing on Earth and attempting to capture an animal for their science project, learning a few interesting facts along the way. Spiegelman does a good job with the interplay between the Zig and Wikki, and the story moves along nicely enough, but the facts themselves seem to be presented in a rather haphazard fashion. As happy as I was to learn about the food chain, or that a frog eats its shedded skin, or that raccoons have five fingers on their hands, I think I would have preferred something a little more focused. Maybe there’s more present than I’m seeing and that the book’s goals of teaching simple animal facts are consistent with the curriculum goals of that particular grade level, but I think next time I’d like a narrower topic and a good deal more detail.