CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 40. . . .June 17, 2011.
Teresa Duran. Illustrated by Elena Val. Translated by Elisa Amado.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2011.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
Preschool-grade / Ages 3-7.
Review by Linda Ludke.
The desert is yellow, yellow, yellow. It is such a dry place that Benny is thirsty. Benny can’t stand it being so dry. So he coils his tail like a spring, jumps …. Sproing! And lands in the jungle.
Benedict is a little devil … literally. He tires of living in such a “hot, red place” and uses his tail as a spring to propel himself into different environments. Benny visits the North Pole but can’t bear the cold. The desert is too dry, and the jungle makes him sweat. After traveling the globe, he finally finds comfort in the blue sea and decides to stay on holiday at the beach. As his fellow devils appear, carrying suitcases and inner tubes, the ending hints at his restless nature: “But watch out. Every now and then he coils his tail....”.
Elena Val’s ink, watercolour and collage illustrations bathe each clime in a different colour: fiery crimson, cool blue-white, dusty yellow, lush green and aquamarine blue. Each vignette is packed with out-of-this-world details: devils are smoking cigars and stoking the cauldrons; red-eyed polar bears are breathing frozen “Gs”; Benny’s tongue curls out onto the dry sand; monkeys are holding umbrellas in the rain forest, and a bathing-suited lady lounging on the beach seems oblivious to the octopus on her head.
Benedict was originally published in Spanish as Diablote in 2009. The flaming underworld is not often depicted in picture books, and some may find this offering a bit over the top. Despite the setting and name, there are no religious overtones. This translation offers lots of repetition and a fun onomatopoetic phrase. With a mischievous glimmer ever present in his eye, Benedict has a cheeky charm.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.
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