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Volume VIII Number 4 . . . . October 19, 2001
The trouble with Ben is that he is not big. In fact, in his position as the youngest of three siblings, he is frustratingly small. Report card day is especially hard for Ben as his sister and brother proudly bring their reports home to be put up on the fridge. Poor Ben's life seems to made up of "can'ts." At the pool, he sits on the side because he can't swim; at the restaurant, he can't read the menu or use the chopsticks; and, in the car, he can't see out the window. Then, at bedtime, his older sister and brother invite him into the computer room and hand him a piece of paper.
Not only are there subjects, but there are also comments which range from "Very Good" through "Superb" to "Totally Cool." Ben can even read his marks which are straight "A"s. That night Ben goes happily to sleep with his straight A report card propped up against his teddy bear and with his shoes tied ready for the morning.
Sarah Ellis is an award-winning author of young adult fiction whose writing has earned her many awards, including the prestigious Vicky Metcalf award for a body of work. In Big Ben, as she did in her first picture book, Next Stop! Ellis has taken a child's point of view to create a perfect small story based on a common experience (in this case, that of being the "baby" of the family.) The text of Ellis' second picture book, in its theme as well as in its large print format and short sentences, is particularly appropriate for pre-schoolers, younger siblings and beginning readers.
Kim LaFave, that gifted and versatile artist whose illustrations for Amos' Sweater won him three awards in 1989, has filled each page with bold, bright-coloured drawings of the characters and their world in Big Ben. Text and illustrations complement each other perfectly and are certain to elicit sympathetic chuckles from readers of all ages. Elementary school librarians will want to add this appealing book to their collection of easy-to-read picture books.
Valerie Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.