At recess one day, sisters Elsie and Theo spy a nut wiggling on the ground. Out pops Bennythe world’s smallest and most gentlemanly walrus. After the girls learn that Benny misses his home in the sea, they send him sailing in a milk-carton boat, along with a trusty band of adventure-seeking slugs. Together, Benny’s Brigade (as they call themselves) begin their voyage to a truck-sized island paradise, avoiding the salt water as much as they can. Slugs don’t like salt.
About the Author
Arthur Bradford's fiction has appeared in "McSweeney's, Esquire, and "The O. Henry Awards. He is also the creator and director of "How's Your News?, a traveling news show produced by the denizens of Camp Jabberwocky, the oldest camp for adults with disabilities in the country.
Selected by 100 Scope Notes as a "Wildest Children's Book of 2012"
"Tiny walruses in nutshells, talking slugs what’s not to like? If your kids like to giggle at really weird stories, Benny’s Brigade will be right up their alley."
Johnathan H. Liu, Wired.com's GeekDad
"Exuberant...imaginative."USA Today's Pop Candy blog
"No surprise here, [McSweeney's McMullens] books so far have been every bit as unusual and beautifully produced as those on McSweeney’s adult list. Take, for example, Benny’s Brigade, an oversized picture book about two little girls and a veritable menagerie of everyday insects, garden critters and rural animals that morph into a fantastical collection of colourful creatures apparently brought to life by a child’s powers of observation."
The Montreal Gazette
"Benny's Brigade charmed the pants off of me."Pink Me
"The latest release from McSweeney's McMullens series is yet another gorgeously designed children's book, with captivating artwork, a surreal plot, and a dust jacket that unfolds into a poster, revealing gold foil embossed slugs on the cover... I certainly enjoyed discussing the possible sub-plots in this weird, yet charming book."Media Darlings
"While walking to school, Theo and Elsie find a wiggling nutshell. The sisters carefully pry it open and discover Benny, a pocket-size, talkative walrus. After he sings about wishing to return to the sea, a group of children builds him a boat. Theo and Elsie place Benny and a brigade of three slugs in it and put it into a creek, hoping the creek will transport Benny and company to the sea. Remembering that slugs’ skin can be harmed by salt water, the travelers make their home on a small island inhabited by an assortment of creatures. Bradford’s unusual plot may have some appeal to children with broad imaginations. There is plenty of dialogue among the characters in the at-times dry text. The story presents positive images of children concerned for an animal away from its natural habitat as well as children who take charge of returning it to its original environment. Working cooperatively to construct a milk-carton boat for Benny provides a nice example of problem solving. Hanawalt’s large, single- and double-page artwork, done in muted colors, is filled with a variety of plant and animal life. An assortment of creatures hides among the plants and roams freely in the outdoor terrain. Changing illustration angles offers differing perspectives of the outdoor environment. When removed from the book and fully opened, the book jacket transforms into a poster depicting the story’s creatures enjoying their lives on the island. Images from the artwork are replicated on the end papers; each one is labeled. Benny’s Bridage is an odd fantasy that ties-in with lessons on compassion, animals, and environments."Lynn Vanca, freelance librarian, Akron, OH, School Library Journal