Monday, June 16, 2008

What Ewan's Loving: Johnny Boo and company

My son Ewan, who just turned five, really loves comics. Unfortunately many of them are just a bit too dense for him still, so he tends to get bored with non-action sections and skip a lot of the story. But I've been dropping into a really cool comic store recently, and have found some reading material that is absolutely just right for him. We've been reading Johnny Boo, the Best Little Ghost in the World by James Kochalka again and again. It's apparently the first book of a new series, and we're looking forward to future titles.

Johnny Boo is a little kid ghost who reminds me a bit of Casper, very friendly and affectionate, who gets into some dramatic and exciting situations. In this story Johnny Boo and his pet ghost Squiggle meet up with an ice cream monster, and when they offer him some of their secret ice cream he gulps it down so fast he accidentally eats Squiggle too. Fortunately the ice cream monster isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, and when Squiggle uses his Sqiggle Power, wiggling around in the monster's tummy, the monster burps him back up and all is well. The book is really visually appealing, with simple but rich blue and green landscapes and lots of dramatic body language, especially when the monster gets the burps. We love it.

Our other favourite find from this store is Geoffrey Hayes' Benny and Penny in Just Pretend. Benny is Penny's older brother, and his idea of a good time is standing in a box pretending to be a pirate on a pirate ship. Alone. Penny's idea of a good time is playing with big brother Benny. Benny's disdain is withering ("No! Pirates are brave, and you are a cry-baby.") but Penny does not give up, driving Benny to distraction until he finally bellows "Go away! You are a dumb, bad little sister!". It's so dramatic. Neither Ewan nor I can really believe he has actually said this. Penny starts to cry and Benny relents and offers to play hide-and-seek ("you hide in this box and I'll find you", he offers). Is Benny's change of heart to be trusted? Heck, no. He goes back to playing pirate and does not look for Penny. What a weasel.

Reconciliation comes when Benny realizes that he can't hear Penny. When he goes to check on her she's not in the box! He looks everywhere and when he finally finds her they end up being pirates together after all. Benny earnestly explains "Penny, before, when I called you a dumb, bad little sister...well, that was just pretend." Sheesh. I hope so.

The pictures are very sweet and lovely, with Benny and Penny portrayed as plump little mice with colourful clothes and surroundings and very expressive faces. The panels are generously sized and there is enough white space to let everything breathe. This story meets kids at exactly their level, and although I don't know a lot about these things, the quality of the book's production is obviously outstanding. A real winner.

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