April 06, 2015

A+ for Big Ben

by Sarah Ellis
Illustrated by Kim La Fave
Pajama Press
24 pp.
Ages 2-5
April, 2015

It's been a few years since we've shared a story about Sarah Ellis and Kim La Fave's little boy, Ben, the sweet child of two earlier books, Big Ben (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2001) and Ben Over Night (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005).  While A+ for Big Ben is a new board book edition of the highly-acclaimed initial offering of Big Ben from author Sarah Ellis and illustrator Kim La Fave, it's lovely to revisit the preschooler and his family.

Ben is the youngest of three siblings, with an older sister, Robin, in Grade 5 and Joe, his brother, in Grade 3. Just as they are learning new things at school for which they are assessed, Ben is learning both at preschool and outside of school, although he recognizes many things that he still cannot do.  He can't use chopsticks and he can't see out the car windows and he can't swim.  And, because he doesn't get a report card to tell him what he is achieving, he is disappointed when Robin and Joe get their reports.  But his siblings recognize his disappointment and find a way to amend this, while recognizing affectionately the extent of his achievements for someone so young.

Sarah Ellis' story is simple and endearing and most parents would delight in the affection the siblings have for each other.  And Kim La Fave's drawings mirror that simplicity and warmth in her colour choices, cow-licked hair, and soft lines in her characters.  Amazing how Sarah Ellis and Kim La Fave's skillful partnership can make report cards seem so delightful in  A+ for Big Ben.

n.b. Another Ben book, Ben Says Goodbye by Sarah Ellis and Kim La Fave from Pajama Press, is slated for release in October 2015.

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