Toon’s Fall 2012 Releases for Kids: Maya Makes a Mess, More Benny and Penny, A Trip to the Bottom of the World With Mouse

A Trip to the Bottom of the World With Mouse

This season, Toon Books has released three outstanding titles for young readers. I’ve previously covered their spring releases, as well as The Shark King, which came out earlier this year.

Maya Makes a Mess

Maya Makes a Mess

by Rutu Modan (Exit Wounds)

A wonderful premise is gorgeously illustrated. Maya is a very sloppy eater. After her Dad says, “You need manners. What if you were eating dinner with the Queen?”, Maya is invited to a royal dinner party (via private plane, which apparently landed in the backyard). Her resulting trip has an unexpected conclusion in terms of how one should behave — but the result, told from a kid’s perspective, is highly entertaining.

The trappings of the situation are well-illustrated to make the situation seem more real, including Beefeaters, various footmen bearing dome-covered dishes, and elaborate dishes. Maya sticks with pasta with ketchup. (Yuck!) And her explanation for eating with her hands has a certain demented appeal.

I did have a quibble. When Maya looks at the table setting, she sees eight forks, five knives, and five spoons. That’s not correct. According to Miss Manners, you only set the table with the implements to eat the food that will be served. And if you need more than five or six pieces, you bring them out with the subsequent courses to avoid overwhelming the guests. So if Maya was only eating pasta, then the servers should remove the pieces she wouldn’t need. But that’s more realism than this exaggerated story needs. Sample pages are available at the publisher’s website.

A Trip to the Bottom of the World With Mouse

A Trip to the Bottom of the World With Mouse

by Frank Viva

A silly story has its roots in a real-life trip to Antarctica. A man and his friend Mouse are traveling, but like a child, Mouse only wants to know if they’re there yet. As soon as they are, Mouse wants to go home.

Readers, meanwhile, will better appreciate the events of the journey. I love the flat illustrations and the lovely colors — golden yellow, autumn russet, slate grey, and Wedgewood blue — Viva uses. It’s the kind of book that, as soon as I finished it, I started it again, just to enjoy the clarity of the simple images.

Kids will like the way the incidents in the story break down into lists. They can imagine themselves in the situation by adding their own actions and items of winter clothing to Mouse’s enumerations. I particularly liked the set of different kinds of penguins.

Sample pages are available at the publisher’s website.

Benny and Penny in Lights Out!

Benny and Penny in Lights Out!

by Geoffrey Hayes

Benny and Penny are Toon’s best-known series, as this is their fourth book. It’s no wonder that the two adorable mouse siblings are so popular — their behavior is realistic, even through they’re fantasy woodland creatures. They act both like young kids and like brother and sister in the way they spat but still help each other.

Benny’s using his flashlight to scare the younger Penny. They’re supposed to be getting ready for bed and winding down, but while Penny wants to read herself to sleep, Benny runs around making noises. Just about every possible part of the bedtime ritual is included here, from teeth-brushing to tidying up.

Hayes’ colored pencil work — and kudos to Toon for including information in each book’s indicia about the art techniques used — is softly welcoming. It gives the mice’s fur texture; they look fluffy and pettable. I liked the way the two demonstrated both strengths and weaknesses, ultimately learning that they’re stronger together.

Sample pages are available at the publisher’s website. (The publisher provided review copies.)


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