A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Review: _Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker_

The latest Benny and Penny book features Bo, an infamous toy breaker, visiting our mousy friends for some playtime. Of course, the siblings want to keep everything from him, and in so doing assist him in destroying several of their favorite playthings. Everything works out in the end, though, once Bo shows remorse and Benny and Penny stop worrying so much about material things.

Of all the books in this series, this one has been my least favorite. It seems odd and embarrassing to say a children's graphic novel has too many words, but I often felt as though the actor mice who played Benny, Penny and Bo had haggled with writer Geoffrey Hayes over how many lines each of them had in the script. However, I'm not the target audience for this book, but, as I've mentioned before, I have my own test market at home: my oldest son (4).

He enjoyed it. The parts with onomatopoeia and naughty behavior tickled him the most, and he didn't seem to mind my tripping over myself time and time again when adding exposition like "said Bo," or "Benny said" to help him keep up with the characters (which was tedious for me). He was able to predict the pattern after a while (see toy, play with toy, fight over toy, break toy), and he knew when I prompted him via question that Bo, who had been teasing the kids about calling our for their mother, yelled "Mommy!" when he gets stuck in a fence hole. Whether he recognized the word or the story structure, I am not sure, but that was an impressive moment for us both, and he genuinely seemed to love the irony. So, Benny and Penny and the Toy Breaker pass the son test, but this one will be a book I hope he doesn't ask me to read over and over.

It comes to mind that some might be interested in knowing how I read comics to my son. While some claim to have done research that says kids can't put images in a sequence until a certain age, my son seems to have caught on quickly to filling in the gutters and reading comics. He actually seems to have regressed a bit on this lately, to be honest. We have some wordless kids comics thanks to a friend at :01 that my son loves very much. With our help, he's learned the gist of these books and that it is also acceptable to read the story differently from time to time. With kids comics with words, we do the same as we do with wordless comics: we point to specific panels and items within each panel, explain or narrate, then move to the next panel and specifics within it. When there are words, we point to the word balloons and the characters speaking and often fill in with "said X" or "Y exclaimed." We then attend to specifics that the images reveal and make comments, ask questions, or prompt him to respond somehow, often with "what do you think will happen next?" or other prediction-based prompts.

My son finally seemed to get into Free Comic Book Day this year, and he's been toting his comics around everywhere, immune to his younger brother's destruction of the covers, which upsets me but no one else in the house ("Honey, don't you want to bag and board that between readings??" :) ), and he's been wanting us to read them to him at bedtime rather than his other storybooks. He's most interested in learning every character's name, then what they can do (in super hero comics), then in reading and rereading the story. The best is when he "reads" the stories back to us, which he immediately wanted to do with The Toy Breaker.

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