The Adventures of Benny, by Steve Shreve (Marshall Cavendish, 2009, 159 pages, ages 7-10)
First, the description. In the five stories that make up this book, a boy named Benny has various fantastical adventures, encountering Big Foot, a mummy named King Butt, a giant squid, the Booger-man, and some nervous monkeys. The stories are relaxed, over-the-top, and occasionally gross; they also are very easy to read, with relatively few words per page and lots of illustrations (you can get an idea of the book here at its website).
"They started back toward the door, but it was too late--they heard a noise outside.
"Now what?" asked Benny, "King Butt has caught up to us!"
"Oh, I wouldn't worry too much about that," said Uncle Howard. "The snakes will probably finish us off long before he gets in." (page 55)
Second, the personal experience part.
Is your emergent boy reader uninterested in the Magic Treehouse books? Obsessed with Diary of a Wimpy Kid (but too young for it, really)? The Adventures of Benny is an easy to read, copiously illustrated, kind of gross, chuckle producing, alternative. The short chapters, each of which stands on its on, make the book particularly friendly for the young reader.
Is your nine year old boy reader driving you absolutely mad by refusing to read any of the books you carefully find for him, after hours of blog reading to find possibilities, chats with the librarian, etc etc? Leave The Adventures of Benny casually draped on the sofa, and he will read it eagerly. In about ten minutes flat too, proving that he can read after all, which you might have been wondering.
If you are an adult reader, reading The Adventures of Benny with an eye toward a blog review, you might not find it a life-changing experience, and you might find smelly socks, farts, eating snakes, etc . don't in fact make you chuckle. But you might also acknowledge that the stories and pictures are not without amusing charm, and the reactions of your children will dispose you fondly toward the book. And it was a nice touch to name the Egyptologist uncle "Howard" (as in Howard Carter, of King Tut fame).
The Adventures of Benny is on the short-list of the Children's Choice Book Awards (chosen by kids), in the 5th and 6th category.
Here's the full list for those grades:
The Adventures of Benny by Steve Shreve (Marshall Cavendish)
Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster)
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca (Atheneum/Richard Jackson/Simon & Schuster)
Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee, Sam Hart, and Artur Fujita (Candlewick)
Zoobreak by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Press)
The link above shows all the lists. Kids can vote for their favorite until May 3, at libraries, book stores, schools, and at BookWeekOnline.com.
(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)