Review: Two more from Toon Books

(I’ve been dealing with awesomely fun dental issues this week, which is why this is a little delayed.)

The people at Toon Books were kind enough to send me review copies of this spring’s upcoming two releases, Benny and Penny in The Big No-No by Geoffrey Hayes and Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss. Both are, as expected, wonderful. Like before, the fact they’re “comics” seems pretty secondary to that they’re just great books for young readers.

I haven’t read the first Benny and Penny book, but the title characters of Benny and Penny in The Big No-No are an adorable pair of brother and sister mice. The dynamic of big brother/little sister is clear from the beginning as the two sneak into the neighbor’s yard to steal back Benny’s pail. Or at least what they believe to be Benny’s pail. Instead, they make an enemy — but then a friend — of their new neighbor, a little girl possum named Melina. The playground conflict of judging someone before you know them is sweetly and simply presented. Hayes’ soft, colored-pencil artwork recalls a lot of the children’s books I read as a kid — Beatrix Potter and Mercer Mayer are obvious ones, but there is some of the wholesome nostalgia of Tasha Tudor. This will become many children’s favorite book.

Bliss’ Luke on the Loose, however, is much more wacky fun in comparison to the quiet innocence of Benny and Penny. Luke is a 4-year-old who decides chasing pigeons is much more interesting that his father’s boring adult conversations. This is one part Peanuts strip and one part classic Sesame Street. Bliss’ New York is lovingly idealized and safe — the kind of world that city kids grow up in — and he fills the book with plenty of joyful visual gags. I loved the sequence on pages 18-19 as pigeons — then Luke — go flying past a man trying to propose to his girlfriend at a sidewalk restaurant. The faces of the couple, the waiter and a fellow diner are wonderfully expressive. The book is a comedic delight and one that adults will love as much as the children they’re reading it to.

Both books are set for release on April 15. Buy these for the children in your life. Or just buy them for yourself. They are both remarkably lovely.

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