06 May 2010

Saving the Biggest Adventures for Later

Steve Shreve’s The Adventures of Benny is an early reader that contains five stories, each liberally illustrated in cartoon style.

Those five stories contain Bigfoot, a mummy with a curse, pirates, a giant squid, an under-bed monster, a ghost, monkeys, snakes live and cooked, a treasure map, smelly socks, wedgies, boogers, and farts.

Four of the five stories include a toilet. Four mention underwear. Four include the word “butt,” “fanny,” or “poop.”

One notable thing that The Adventures of Benny doesn’t have at all: females.

Some booksellers have labeled this book a “graphic novel” because of Shreve’s art style and because that’s now a hot label. But Shreve doesn’t use comics techniques. The art and text in The Adventures of Benny interact exactly like Dr. Seuss’s easy readers fifty years ago.


Chaucerian said...

For about a week, I was sure that this was the most depressing post I had ever read on Oz and Ends. Teachers, and grandparents, and afterschool coaches are expected to read this book with their children? Excuse me, with their little boys? And then expect them to behave themselves at McDonald's afterwards? And later on the little boys will be running General Motors (I know, dated reference)? But suddenly I have realized that this is not a reading book, this is a pass-around book! Kids' big brothers get hold of it, and give it to the little kids, and the little boys pass it from boy to boy and giggle, and no adult or little girl is ever the wiser! We had those sorts of books in the '40's, I'm pretty sure, because I did see the boys laughing and passing something from hand to hand. So now, knowing that the whole thing is a joke, I feel much better.

J. L. Bell said...

I get the sense that Adventures of Benny is being positioned as a book for “reluctant readers,” a group that isn’t synonymous with but has a large overlap with “boys.” Though Steve Shreve wrote it for his son (he also has a daughter, and I hope she gets her own book soon), I think boys are supposed to read it on their own or, as you say, with each other. I doubt many a teacher or grandparent would share it with children; that would, as you imply, spoil much of the fun.