Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ben Overnight by Sarah Ellis

Whether movies or books, sequels are often just not as good as the first time around. Nothing could be farther from true with Sarah Ellis’ Ben books. Big Ben was perfect, and so is Ben Overnight. Ellis has a way of honing in on the things that are most important to kids, the things that are important to them like being a pirate or “lighter than air.” She seems to be able to crawl inside both the kid and parent psyche, and she cuts to the chase with such creative flair that you can’t help but love her books. “The one thing that Ben can’t be at Peter’s [Ben’s best friend] is a sleepover-nighter.” Who else could sum up the issue at the core of a book while being creative; and all in a single line? But Ellis’ books are filled with these well crafted gems. Jumping on a bed is referred to as “…defy[ing] gravity.”

Ben does give a sleep-over at his friend’s another chance. While lying in bed that night he thinks about all the fast ways he could get back home if he needed to. He could be “Marathon Ben…Racecar Ben…[or even] Bird Ben.” Instead, he yawns and falls asleep. He is “Snooze-Boy Ben dreaming himself home.”

Of course Kim Lafave’s illustrations are the perfect match for Ellis, and with dozens of awards and countless books (four of them mine) under his illustrative belt Lafave knows how to bring a character to life. One can only hope that the two will be paired for many many more Ben books to come.

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