A conversation starter.

READ REVIEW

THE PLAYGROUNDS OF BABEL

A new take on the Babel tale featuring friendship, song, and a dragon.

Two children on a playground overhear an old woman telling a story. Since one child doesn’t understand her language, the other takes on the storytelling. The story differs from what the listener—and perhaps readers—is familiar with: After the people of Babel build their tower, “God sent a dragon to destroy the tower, and then God made it impossible for people to understand each other—by making new languages for everyone.” The translating child continues, describing how sudden linguistic barriers did nothing to dim the friendship between two young girls of Babel. Through song, the two discovered how to communicate once more. Conveyed entirely through dialogue, back-and-forth questioning between listening child and translating child moves the action forward but also prompts musings on belief and story. “None of it is realistic. It’s a story, not reality.…No one’s asking you to believe, just imagine.” Grobler’s mixed-media work illustrates the narrative layers. He sticks primarily to an inky palette for the playground action while illuminating the Babel tale with bright watercolor and colored pencil. Just as the skeptical child concedes, “That sounds realistic,” the illustrator injects color into the playground. Languages are denoted by different symbol sets rather than lettering, and the cast of characters is diverse in skin color and dress, including both pairs of friends.

A conversation starter. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-036-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Here’s hoping there will be a bunch of Baloney in the future.

BALONEY AND FRIENDS

From the Baloney & Friends series , Vol. 1

A new chapter-book series promises tons of fun for everyone.

Baloney the pig couldn’t be happier about starring in his very own book—until pals Peanut D. Horse, Bizz E. Bee, and Krabbit (a crabby rabbit) crash the introduction, leaving him frustrated. Baloney perseveres and goes on to star in several, short comic book–style stories that often break the fourth wall and that always rely on the very different personalities of the characters to deliver humor. Peanut is a Pollyanna and just a bit daffy. Bizz is a sensible, thoughtful bee-ing. Krabbit is so crabby he’d give Oscar the Grouch a run for his money. Baloney? Well, Baloney is a sensitive sort who, in two longer episodes, wants to entertain his friends with a magic show and join in their fun at swimming. Shorter “mini-comics” between these sections provide good breaks for new readers who are, perhaps, just starting to make their ways through a longer text like this. Pizolli saves the strongest story for last, delivering a sweet and satisfying portrait of Peanut’s kindness to her friend Baloney when he feels blue. And readers needn’t feel blue themselves that the story is over since they can follow handy backmatter instructions to draw their own versions of the simple, line-drawn characters.

Here’s hoping there will be a bunch of Baloney in the future. (Graphic fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-05454-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Another sweet, empathetic day with Benny and Penny.

BENNY AND PENNY IN HOW TO SAY GOODBYE

From the Benny and Penny series , Vol. 6

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)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-935179-99-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: TOON Books & Graphics

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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