Benny and Penny in Lights Out!

By Geoffrey Hayes (Toon Books/Raw Junior)
ISBN: 978-1-935179-20-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: another intoxicating item to be read and re-read as your kids begin the joy of obsessively collecting wonderful comics… 10/10

In times past the commercial comics industry thrived by producing copious amounts of gaudy, flimsy pamphlets subdivided into a range of successful, self-propagating and seamlessly self-perpetuating age-specific comics. These eye-catching items scrupulously generated innumerable tales and delights intended to entertain, inform and educate such well-defined target demographics as Toddler/Kindergarten, Young and Older Juvenile, General, Boys and Girls periodical publications, but nowadays the English-speaking world can only afford to maintain a few paltry out-industry, licensed tie-ins and spin-offs for a dwindling younger readership.

Where once cheap and prolific, strip magazines in the 21st century are extremely cost-intensive and manufactured for a highly specific – and waning – niche market, whilst the beguiling and bombastic genres that originally fed and nurtured comics are more immediately disseminated via TV, movies and assorted interactive games media.

Happily, old-school prose publishers and the newborn graphic novel industry have a different business model and far more sustainable long-term goals, so the magazine makers’ surrender has been turned into a burgeoning victory, as solid and reassuringly sturdy Comic Books increasingly buck the pamphlet/papers trend.

So the latest crop of kids are far more likely to find their formative strip narrative experiences between the card-covers of enchanting and enthralling tomes, which are now almost the only place willing and able to train and bring youngsters into the medium and the art-form.

It’s not a new phenomenon: enchanting and exciting strips in standard book-formats date from long before my own halcyon salad – or perhaps Farley’s Rusks – days. My distant childhood was littered with Edward Ardizzone’s Tim All Alone books, the first jumbo sized translated Tintin hardbacks, John Ryan’s Captain Pugwash adventures and so many others.

…And don’t forget every Christmas also brought a wealth of strip and prose annuals from Rupert Bear to Tiger Tim for the “Tinies” before moving inexorably onto Beano and Dandy, Eagle, Victor, Lion, Smash!, Valiant, 2000AD and so on…

Here the splendidly prolific and wondrously gifted Geoffrey Hayes revisits his adorable mouse moppets in a mildly spooky yarn just in time for Halloween!

Hayes is a veteran of the Children’s entertainment scene, having written and/or illustrated more than 40 books including Otto and Uncle Tooth, Bear by Himself, the Patrick Bear series and Margaret Wise Brown’s When the Wind Blew among so many others.

He proudly reaffirms that Benny & Penny’s murine misadventures are wholly drawn in coloured pencil, so here’s another mouse-sized bite of the cherry that will utterly enchant every youngster who sees them and elder who reads them out – and don’t forget to do the voices too…

Boisterous big brother Benny is a tough little tyke, and when bedtime comes he’s too excited playing with his torch to settle down. Flipping off the lights he gives little Penny an awful fright and teases her about the “Boogey Mouse”.

Penny is a good girl who tidies up her toys and, with the lights back, on settles down with her book in bed. Her brother however still isn’t sleepy and tries to spoil her quiet time by acting like a dinosaur and spoiling her reading about princesses…

Finally, after chasing a bug out of the window Benny seems ready for bed, but since he can’t find his pirate hat, jumps out of the window to fetch it. A rather long times passes and Penny gets worried so, constantly telling herself there is no Boogey Mouse, she cautiously ventures out into the scary darkness of the garden to find her brother…

The starry night-garden reveals thrills, chills and a spooky wonderland of animals and mini-beasts – but definitely no monsters – before Benny finally finds his hat, and by the time their mother checks on them they’re safely back in bed. Only now the near-exhausted lad wants his little sister to read him a story…

Aimed at the four-and-older readers and released as a child-sized (236x162mm), gloriously evocative, beguilingly beautiful 32 page full colour hardback, Benny and Penny in Lights Out! is another visual feast that kids and their minders will savour over and over again.

Toon Books/Raw Junior was founded by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly to provide high-quality comics stories that could entice pre-schoolers and beginning readers into a life-long relationship with graphic narrative and traditional reading.

With a select pantheon of creators they have produced many brilliant books sub-divided into First Comic for brand new readers (Level 1), (Easy-to-Read for Emerging Readers Level 2) and Chapter Books for Advanced Beginners (Level 3).

Most books also include parents/teachers tips on ‘How to Read Comics with Kids’ and the company supports their publications with on-line tools. offers interactive audio-versions read by the authors – in a multitude of languages – and a “cartoon maker” facility which allows readers to become writers of their own adventures.

© 2012 Geoffrey Hayes & Raw Junior, LLC. All rights reserved.