October 05, 2015

Ben Says Goodbye

by Sarah Ellis
Illustrated by Kim La Fave
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-6
October 1, 2015

Last time (A+ for Big Ben) darling preschooler Ben had to deal with being the only one in the family not getting a report card and feeling like a little kid.  This time he has another challenge to overcome: the moving away of his best friend Peter.  Desolate, Ben moves away too, under the table to become a caveboy, with only his teddy bear for companionship.  There he eats with his fingers and plays with rocks, and responds to offered food with the occasional "guh." And, most importantly, he is able to to recreate his time with Peter in amazing petroglyphs that provide him with closure and appreciation for their friendship.
Sarah Ellis' latest Ben story focuses on a common upset for children: the moving away of a friend.  Her text shows how a child doesn't recognize all the efforts of others to distract from the potential trauma but instead allows him to immerse himself in his memories, giving them texture in the drawings he produces within his cave.  Kim La Fave, who gets little Ben's shy or determined face spot on, illustrates Ben Says Goodbye so expressively that Ben's angst and ultimate release and acceptance are remarkably visible.  Using the simplest of lines, Kim La Fave gets the angles of the faces, hands and bodies with their tiny feet so right that their intentions are always plain, allowing even the youngest readers to see more into the artwork than might be expected.  And the cave drawings are so evocative of boys having fun and making adventures from their limitless activities. It's not surprising that Ben will miss his compadre when they've already lived so many lives in a few short years.

Best of all is the culminating picture and text that, without saying much, say everything, providing a hopeful future of friendship, albeit with someone of the opposite gender.  A happy ending to a story that demonstrates that even the very young can work their way through difficult situations on their own and come out smiling.  Ben has so much to teach all of us, even if he is just a preschooler!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this thoughtful review, Helen. I especially appreciated your attention to Kim's expressive drawings. If I've got one "message" it is that children have the resources to comfort themselves if they are given the time and freedom to do so.