Benny's Brigade

2012. 48p. 978-1-93636-561-6. 19.95.
PreS-Gr 2–While walking to school, Theo and Elsie find a wiggling nutshell. The sisters carefully pry it open and discover Benny, a pocket-size, talkative walrus. After he sings about wishing to return to the sea, a group of children builds him a boat. Theo and Elsie place Benny and a brigade of three slugs in it and put it into a creek, hoping the creek will transport Benny and company to the sea. Remembering that slugs’ skin can be harmed by salt water, the travelers make their home on a small island inhabited by an assortment of creatures. Bradford’s unusual plot may have some appeal to children with broad imaginations. There is plenty of dialogue among the characters in the at-times dry text. The story presents positive images of children concerned for an animal away from its natural habitat as well as children who take charge of returning it to its original environment. Working cooperatively to construct a milk-carton boat for Benny provides a nice example of problem solving. Hanawalt’s large, single- and double-page artwork, done in muted colors, is filled with a variety of plant and animal life. An assortment of creatures hides among the plants and roams freely in the outdoor terrain. Changing illustration angles offers differing perspectives of the outdoor environment. When removed from the book and fully opened, the book jacket transforms into a poster depicting the story’s creatures enjoying their lives on the island. Images from the artwork are replicated on the end papers; each one is labeled. Benny’s Bridage is an odd fantasy that ties-in with lessons on compassion, animals, and environments.–Lynn Vanca, freelance librarian, Akron, OH

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