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Benny and Penny in Just Pretend

by Geoffrey Hayes

Publisher: TOON Books

Format: hardcover, full color, $12.95

ISBN: 978-0-9799238-0-7

Reviewed by: School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2
Hayes successfully combines a comic-book format with effective easy-reader elements to introduce two delightful mouse siblings. Penny, clothed in pale-blue princess regalia, persistently seeks out her older brother’s company, though Benny, who is busy playing pirate, brushes her off repeatedly. Finally fed up, Benny calls her “a dumb, bad little sister!” and she dissolves into tears. After an offstage intercession from Mom, Benny suggests a game of hide-and-seek, hurries Penny into an outdoor storage bin, and tells her to stay put. Time passes without Penny making an appearance. Benny begins to miss her and is relieved when she finally turns up, explaining, “I had to go pee-pee!” After Penny proves her courage by shooing away a frightening dragonfly, Benny apologizes for his harsh words; the sibs share a “huggy” and then play pirates together. The simple language, brief sentences, and clean layout–with large text, easy-to-follow sequencing, and an uncluttered design–are appropriate for newly independent readers. The warm-hued panel pictures contain enough detail to provide visual clues and create a sense of place while briskly propelling the action forward. The characters have expressive features that reflect changing emotions, and the sibling relationship is sweetly and realistically portrayed. A fresh and fun choice for beginning readers–especially those discouraged by text-heavy pages–and for sharing aloud. –Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal