________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 2004


Beginnings. Jungleville Tails: The Adventures of Bennett Bengal.

Ben Herosian. Illustrated by Melanie Ford Wilson.
Winnipeg, MB: Lilyfield Books (Lilyfield & Co., Box 25, RR2, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 2E6), 2003.
16 pp, pbk., $16.00.
ISBN 0-9734024-07.

Subject Headings:
Tigers - Juvenile fiction.
Jungle animals - Juvenile fiction.
Infants with Disabilities - Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Lynne Kositsky.

*1/2 /4


Exactly, my dear. And every Zebra has different stripes, and every Lion has a different mane and every Leopard has different spots. There can also be greater differences between all animals. Some animals, like this little one, have no feet, others are missing a hand, some can't see, some can't hear and there are a million differences that can happen. But you see, Tom, just because these precious animals are different than you and me, that does not mean they are any less perfect or miraculous.

In Beginnings, Ben Herosian, who has Mobius Syndrome, tells the story of how a baby tiger is born without back paws. His parents live in a community of animals who all get on well together, but the birth of the baby causes consternation.

     Herosian's idea is commendable. He wants to show that a child is special no matter what his or her challenges. In fact, Mother Stork, the creature who files the paperwork so parents can obtain children, says that the baby tiger was born without "feet" on purpose. Although the reason for this is not explained in the book, one assumes that Herosian is indicating that children who are different are still lovable and "perfect."

     Unfortunately, while the concept is admirable, the story is flawed. The baby animals are not born naturally, but brought to parents by storks. This mythology is outdated. Current research indicates that truth is preferable when dealing with the questions of small children. The logic of the story is also flawed. At the beginning of the tale, Herosian tells us that all the animals live in harmony and are accepting of one another's differences, but, when the baby arrives, other animals who are receiving their own newborns make a great fuss because he is "damaged." There are also spelling mistakes in the text. Cliches are used too frequently, and the sentence structure is poor.

     Despite its drawbacks, this book may be helpful to read to children who have been born mentally or physically challenged. A portion of sales is donated to Variety-The Children's Charity. The illustrations, by Melanie Ford Wilson, are colourful and charming.

Not Recommended.

Lynne Kositsky is an award-winning poet and children's author whose latest books are The Thought of High Windows and Rachel, An Elephant Tree Christmas.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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