Continuity for Babies

As a comic book geek of long standing, I love continuity between disparate projects, especially when background details in one book mean something in another one. In short, I dig background continuity. That’s why I wrote my Brookdale “unseries” the way I did.

As a parent, I find myself reading the same books to Leia over and over, to the point of considering some self-medication as prescribed by Dr. James Beam.

So when a series of books employs Point A to make Point B a little more delightful, I just have to give a shout out.

I’ve never met Jim Benton, but I have four of his board books on Leia’s bookshelf, and she really likes them. That may be on Mr. Benton’s native talent or that his books for some reason compel me to use extremely exaggerated voices when I read them aloud. In any event, they’re fun, they’re quirky, and they work.

They also all interconnect in subtle ways. Which makes me go from appreciating them to flat-out loving them.

Let’s begin with Mr. Benton’s ode to the creative urge and the artistic temperament, Piggy Paints. In Piggy Paints, Piggy — spoiler alert — paints.

But see what he paints:

Piggy Paints

Note Piggy’s sensitive yet bold exploration of swine’s cruelty toward swine, via the insertion of the predatory feline as a liminal figure.

Yes, Piggy is painting pigs (and a kitty in the middle), but take note of his specific style. It will come back to us soon.

But for now, let’s move on to Five Stinky Socks:

art from Five Stinky Socks

Extreme olfactory unpleasantness apparently warps the temporal continuum. Astutely observed.

Just remember those socks for a moment, as we peruse our copy of Mr. Benton’s Where’s My Fnurgle?an examination of Man’s quest for inner light and spiritual guidance, externalized as a mischievous sprite.

art from Where's My Fnurgle?

Personally, I didn’t even know I had a Fnurgle, much less that it was missing, until I read this book.

See that? No, not the Fnurgle! The artwork on the wall! It’s a Piggy original for sure! Lovingly framed and hung with pride and care. The Fnurgle lives in the same universe as Piggy.

More importantly, as we turn to our fourth Benton book — Robot Kitties — we see something quite familiar…

art from Robot Kitties

Everywhere indeed! These robot kitties were churned out by a Foxconn facility that also builds iPhones.

Not only do the titular mechanical cats live in the same world as Piggy and the Fnurgle…they live in the same damn house! The wall and carpet and TV are the same — the couch, lamp, and end table match the chair, lamp, and table in Where’s My Fnurgle? This is the same room, in the same house, shown from a different angle. (In fact, it’s entirely possible this shot is from the Fnurgle’s window-leering vantage point!)

And what about those stinky socks? Well…

more art from Robot Kitties

While creating art is a wetware-driven imperative for Piggy, painting piggies is merely how robot kitties pass the Turing test.

As this image from Robot Kitties reveals, those socks get around — one kitty is trying on two of them, even as another kitty employs its built-in PlagiArtist 2.0 software to mimic Piggy’s painting style.

My friends, the conclusion is inescapable. These four books — from the deviousness of the Fnurgle to Piggy’s pathological need to paint to the invasion of the robot kitties to the reek of the stinky socks — all take place not merely in a joined Bentonverse, but in the same domicile.

As I said at the start, I’ve never met Jim Benton…but I think we maybe read the same comic books growing up. Anyway, I want to thank him for giving me something to think about as I read to my daughter again…and again…and again…


  1. Jim Benton says:

    Hey! So glad you like the books. Thanks very much for the very kind words. PM me and maybe I can send along a little sketch to round out your collection!

  2. Story Time Librarian says:

    I love reading Jim Benton books to the kids! You’re absolutely right, they lend themselves to lots of fun voices. Now I can point out the continuity as well. Thanks!

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