I have a special place in my heart for Jim Benton, and not just because Happy Bunny made me chuckle back in the day. The Franny K. Stein books were my eldest’s first favorite book series, and my Kiddo is discovering his graphic novels now (he LOVED Clyde). My about-to-be-a-high-school-senior (sounds nicer than “the middle child”) always got a kick out of My Dumb Diary, a series my library kids also devour. Mr. Benton’s rep got in touch with me and offered me a copy of his newest graphic novel, Attack of the Stuff, which I’ve read with the Kiddo and am eternally grateful.
Attack of the Stuff, by Jim Benton, (May 2020, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-5458-0499-5
Bill Waddler is a simple duck trying to live his life. He works in a hay store that doesn’t seem to get a lot of customers, and he’s harassed day and night by the stuff that surrounds him in his home: his toilet has aspirations to show biz; his blanket isn’t ready to go to bed when Bill is, and his alarm clock is annoyed at having to get up so early. One day, Bill decides he’s had enough, and heads out to the woods to live a quiet life, just as the rest of the world falls into chaos. The Internet has decided to stop working, and the world needs someone who can communicate with it, and who better than the duck who can talk to stuff? This is Bill’s moment to shine, if only everyone else will take him – and the Internet’s demands – seriously.
This is the kind of surreal comic book storytelling that the kids in my library would love. Jim Benton goes way out there for Attack of the Stuff, but it’s funny in its lunacy! His artwork is immediately recognizable, and so is the humor. It’s bright, fun, and with an enduring sense of snark that keeps kids coming back for more. My kiddo loved it.
Franny K. Stein: Recipe for Disaster, by Jim Benton, (July 2020, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $15.99, ISBN: 9781534413405
Can you believe this is Franny’s ninth adventure? I, for one, am so happy that she’s back with new books: my library kids check the first 8 out all the time, and have asked me when more are coming. Now, I have something to tell them! Franny rescues an old furnace from the trash bin and creates a robot that just wants to make kids happy. To help out the art and music bake sale, she puts the robot to work baking, but the eager to please robot creates THE MOST DELICIOUS MUFFINS ON EARTH. Suddenly, all the kids want to do is eat muffins. Schoolwork, interests, everything is tossed aside. Nothing exists except for the muffins. It’s up to Franny to save the day… but those kids at school can be very persuasive.
There’s so much great humor in this series, and this story is rife with Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibes while poking fun at bake sale culture. Franny and Igor, her canine (ish) assistant, are a hilarious twosome. Black and white illustrations throughout the book give readers a birds-eye view into an innocent fundraiser spinning out of control. A welcome addition to the Franny K. Stein series, I’m happy to recommend Recipe for Disaster to my kiddos.
There are some Franny printables and lesson plans on Teachers Pay Teachers, all at varying prices. I also did a “mad science” search on TpT which yielded some fun freebies, like free mad science clip art and mad scientist crazy hair headbands. Print some, share them, and encourage your kiddos to unleash their inner mad scientist!