________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 22 . . . . June 27, 2008

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Benny Bensky and the Parrot-Napper.

Mary Borsky. Illustrated by Linda Hendry.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2008.
120 pp., pbk., $11.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-840-8.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Dana Eagles-Daley.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

Benny Bensky and the Parrot-Napper is an engaging story about a spirited dog and his likable human friends. In this adventure, Benny and his humans investigate the mysterious disappearance of several parrots in the Ontario town of Smiths Falls. Appealing to a broad range of readers, this book includes interesting characters, accessible and descriptive language, as well as a good amount of plot development.

     Rosie, Fran, Benny, Peanut, Mr. and Mrs. Bensky and other minor characters are appealing and realistic. Rosie is organized and practical while Fran, her best friend, is more dramatic. When the girls are asked to be in a play as flower-girls, Fran is excited about the opportunity, especially the chance to wear a pretty dress. In contrast, Rosie thinks the play will conflict with other commitments. Their good-natured banter about this, ending with Rosie's agreeing to be in the play, is typical of the way the girls relate to each other throughout the story. The girls are interesting and feisty, but they still squeal with delight at times. Together with Benny the dog, they are a detective team which comes to the bottom of the parrot-napping case.

     Peanut the Parrot is a more enigmatic character since Rosie and Fran love him, but Benny dislikes him and finds that the parrot, that is completely gray, dusty and quite old, is boring and pathetic. However, Peanut is also able to make convincing telephone ring noises, and he can speak. Fran and Rosie adore these qualities, and soon they are laughing and teaching him new expressions.

     Benny is a lovable and determined dog who loves adventure. Since the author writes Benny's thoughts, the reader is able to see him as a character equal to the human characters. The thrill of a new mystery finds him "bouncing to his feet, the hair of his shoulders almost bristling with excitement." Many readers can relate to Benny's jealousy when the girls first meet Peanut the Parrot as Benny reacts by finding the parrot smelly and annoying while the girls find the parrot wonderful and entertaining. There is also a scene in which Police Officers Sue and Sam explain why dogs are such good at helping in police matters. As the police officers describe some canine capabilities, Benny reacts endearingly by sitting up taller and agreeing with all of the amazing things that are being said about him. Later in the story, Benny attempts to protect Rosie and finds himself in a predicament. Benny appears to be a valiant but misunderstood hero who was just trying to take care of his human. Overall, Benny is a very well-written character who appeals to many types of readers.

     The team made up of Fran, Rosie and Benny is appealing. The three detectives love to have fun throughout the story but can be very serious when necessary. After doing some preliminary research, the team decides to further investigate the parrot disappearances. As Rosie explains:

"You'll have to excuse us," she said. "Fran and Benny and I have a few investigations to make."

Benny, Rosie and Fran had already left the Perogy Palace, no-nonsense expressions on their faces, and, by unspoken agreement, they were already headed toward the local bird store, Birds-R-Us.

     Author Mary Borsky uses a great deal of descriptive language to set the scene. For example, when Fran, Rosie and Benny go over to Mrs. Graham's house, Benny "raised his large black nose into the air. The house smelled of lemon oil, polished wood, and some flowery smell, possibly lilacs." By using this language, Borsky effectively brings the reader into the story while also allowing the reader to see the story from a dog's point-of-view. There are numerous instances of smells, sounds and tastes throughout the story. Partly owing to these descriptions, this book would be enjoyed by young readers of varying abilities.

     Benny Bensky and the Parrot-Napper is a fun book for young readers of both genders. It offers many characteristics which will appeal to many different types of readers. Animal lovers or mystery lovers will like this book. There are a number of learning opportunities throughout the story as the author includes brief science lessons which might spark a child's interest. Also, some aspects of the story encourage the reader to agree or disagree with characters, such as when Fran and Rosie argue or when the girls like Peanut the Parrot while Benny dislikes him. The believable characters, interesting plot and descriptive language make this book smart and accessible.

Recommended.

Dana Eagles-Daley is a teacher in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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