________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 31. . . .April 17, 2015


A+ for Big Ben.

Sarah Ellis. Illustrated by Kim LaFave.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, 2015.
24 pp., board book, $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-927485-76-7.

Subject Heading:
Brothers and sisters-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-kindergarten / Ages 3-5.

Review by Carla Epp.

**** /4

Reviewed from F&Gs.



Everyone goes out for supper. Robin picks fat noodle soup. Joe picks crispy shrimp.

Ben cannot read the menu. He cannot use chopsticks. His stomach hurts.


A+ for Big Ben is a board book that follows preschooler Ben through one day of his life, the day that his older siblings receive their report cards. Ben’s older sister is in grade five and gets a report card with grades. Ben’s older brother is in grade three and gets a report card with comments. Ben is in preschool where there are no report cards, but he sure wishes he got one. In the rest of Ben’s day, there are many things that he is unable to do that the older kids can do, things like swimming or reading a menu at a restaurant. By the end of the day, Ben is feeling defeated and just wants to go to bed, but his siblings have a surprise for him. They’ve created a “little brother report card”, one just for Ben with his own grades and comments!

internal art     This sweet story will resonate with preschool age children, especially those children who have older siblings to compare themselves to and who often feel or are told that they are too young to do certain things. The activities in Ben’s day are common in the lives of many preschoolers and will feel familiar. It is important for Ben, and all preschool children, to be reminded that they have many gifts and talents to share with the world. With the affirmation that his siblings provide, by the end of A+ for Big Ben, Ben is feeling quite proud of all the things he is capable of doing and is no longer focussed on the things he cannot do. This story is a good reminder for older siblings and parents that it often does not take much investment to impact or change the course of a child’s day, especially at this age. Everyone wants to be a “big” kid and have a purpose in their day. Ben’s siblings recognize and acknowledge his desire to be just like them and in doing so help Ben to be proud of the things he can and does do well.

      The text of the story is simple, approachable, and strongly supported by the illustrations. The illustrations by Kim LaFave are bright and colorful. Each illustration is focussed on the subject (usually Ben), and backgrounds are sparse (if necessary for context) or not there at all. This method of illustrating makes it easy to infer the story from what the reader sees. The illustrations are also emotionally evocative. There are pictures of Ben with the top of his head below the car window, sitting at the restaurant table where all readers can see are his nose and eyes, and at the end, of a proud Ben displaying his report card on his dresser as he completes some of his A+ tasks from the list.

      A+ for Big Ben is a charming story of growing up, but not necessarily as fast as one might like. In particular, it will resonate with preschool aged children who always want to grow up and be just like the big kids. This would be a good purchase for public libraries and other libraries that serve children in the preschool age group.

Highly Recommended.

Carla Epp is a hospital librarian with the University of Manitoba.

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.

Next Review | Table of Contents For This Issue - April 17, 2015
CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive