The sixth title in the Benny and Penny graphic early reader series captures children's transitory emotions with quiet, forgiving humor.
When Benny and Penny find a dead salamander, Penny names it Little Red and insists on a burial, while Benny thinks it's gross. The siblings' contrasting reactions continue throughout the tale. Their “grief” is just as transitory and matter-of-fact as that of the children in Margaret Wise Brown’s The Dead Bird (re-issued with new illustrations by Christian Robinson in 2016), though the comic-book format and Hayes' age-appropriate humor update the story. (Benny, hiding behind a bush, sneezes, causing Penny and her mole friend Melina to check the corpse for signs of life.) Although Penny responds in stereotypical girl fashion, bringing flowers for the grave, Benny expresses emotions too. When they find a living salamander, Benny thinks it's Little Red's ghost, while Penny decides it's Red's sister and names it Paula. Speech bubbles used to tell the story guide readers through the pages, while warm, friendly illustrations reminiscent of another classic, Beatrix Potter, provide detail and humor for new readers to study. Death is an odd subject for a comic for young children, but Hayes handles it well. For newly independent readers, this is an alternative to—not a replacement for—Brown’s classic.
Another sweet, empathetic day with Benny and Penny. (Graphic early reader. 5-8)