By Geoffrey Hayes
32 pages, color
Published by Toon Books
Toon Books is a publisher that specializes in a synthesis of children’s books and comics. These books use the structure of both mediums to form beautiful graphic novels aimed at children of different ages that not only serve as gateways to comics, but also are genuinely enjoyable in their own right. With three new books being released by Toon Books, today’s “Quick Takes” reviews focus on the latest publications from Toon.
Geoffrey Hayes’s Benny and Penny books are some of my favorites in the publishing line, so a new installment from Hayes was bound to tickle my fancy. Benny and Penny in Lights Out! does just that, as the brother-and-sister duo get ready for bed, tell each other scary stories, and sneak out a window into the dark to try and find Benny’s missing pirate hat. What’s great about Benny and Penny in Lights Out! (and the Benny and Penny books in general) is that despite the verbal sparring that the duo occasionally have, there’s a certain level of affection that’s always present between the two. Penny clearly looks up to her big brother, and Benny himself has a protective side that will surface as need be.
I also appreciated that for all of Benny’s bluster, it’s Penny who can kick up the bravery when it needs to be present; she might be the little sister but she’s not afraid to be the tough one when need be. Add in some beautiful art from Hayes, with soft gentle shading that draws you into the page, and you’re hooked. I love the big two-page spread of Penny outside at night by herself, and Hayes plays with light and shadow quite effectively for a book set in the dark hours. Aimed at first and second graders, Benny and Penny in Lights Out! is a book that parents will enjoy reading by themselves as much as they will with their children. I might be about to enter my 40s, but I’ll cheerfully keep collecting all the Benny and Penny books for my own bookshelves.