Publication day for Lenny and Benny and Benjy’s Blanket

Today, Green Bean Books, who specialise in Jewish books for children, publish two new picture books, Benjy’s Blanket by Miguel Gouveia, illustrated by Raquel Catalina, translated from Portuguese (no translator mentioned) and Lenny and Benny, written and illustrated by Naama Benziman, translated from Hebrew by Shira Atik and Batnadiv HaKarmi. World Kid Lit were given a sneak peek…

Lenny and Benny tells the story of two rabbits. Lenny has just been crowned “Jumping Champion of the Forest”, when a newcomer arrives in Lenny’s neck of the woods. His name is Benny and together, the two rabbits have “the best day ever!” But when Lenny starts teaching Benny to jump, there suddenly seems to be a problem… Benny can jump higher than Lenny! Rather than accept this graciously, Lenny goes on the attack, accusing his new friend of being a cheat and, despite Benny’s best efforts, Lenny refuses to speak to Benny ever again.

Some time later, Benny holds a birthday party to which he does not invite Lenny (although my daughter did think Benny really should have invited Lenny!). But a mistake by a postal worker means that Benny accidentally gets an invitation. Time has now passed and Benny decides that perhaps he could go after all and make friends with Lenny. But it’s now Lenny’s turn to get on his high horse and he now refuses to be friends with Lenny. Will they ever work their friendship out?

The book uses only two colours, red and blue, and this technique is used to great effect. Anything relating to Lenny is written and drawn in red and anything relating to Benny is written and drawn in blue. This makes the text fun to read, with the speech alternating colours on the page. My daughter and I also enjoyed the way the text is written at different angles on the page, even in the shape of a question mark at one point. We did find we kept confusing the two names when we were talking about the book, mixing Lenny and Benny up, but that also made us laugh a lot!

At the end of the book, we are told how the story of Lenny and Benny relates to the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza in the Talmud. This was an interesting aspect to the book, which as a non-Jewish family we enjoyed learning about. I also appreciated the paragraph towards the end encouraging emotional literacy and acknowledging that it’s okay to feel angry sometimes, but it’s important how we react to that anger: “We can, and should, choose kindness”.

Benjy’s Blanket is a delightful story about a boy’s love for his grandfather. When Benjy was born, his granddad, a tailor, made him a beautiful blanket. As Benjy grows older, the blanket becomes more tattered. Every so often, his mum suggests it’s time to throw the old thing away. But to Benjy the blanket is more than just a blanket; it is his link to his grandad. Each time this conversation comes round, he takes his blanket to his granddad who reinvents it into something new – a jacket, a scarf, a button – which Benjy cherishes until the next time the conversation comes around and he has to go back to his grandfather again.

My daughter has a blanket and she really empathised with Benjy who is desperate to cling onto the last scraps of his blanket and with it, that close relationship with his granddad. This is a really sweet, heart-warming book.

Find out more

A Manta do José de Miguel Gouveia, illustrated by Raquel Catalina, first published in Portuguese in Portugal by Bruaá Editora, 2019

To find out more about Green Bean books, take a look at our interview with Green Bean founder Michael Leventhal.

There’s an interview with illustrator Raquel Catalina over at Green Bean Books

Benjy’s Blanket was originally published in Portuguese as A Manta de José. You can buy the Portuguese edition or peek inside here, and you can hear a reading of it on YouTube