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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ben Rides On, written and illustrated by Matt Davies. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Book Press. Macmillan, Raincoast. 2013. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"It was arriving at school that Ben hated. Sadly, Adrian Underbite, perhaps the world's largest third-grader, didn't seem to like Ben very much. But Adrian did like nice things."

Ben is soooo happy with his new bike. It gives him independence and great joy to ride it to school...any which route he chooses to take. The problem is not in going to school, it is in arriving there. His arrival means facing Adrian Underbite, who takes great pleasure in relieving Ben of the beloved bike. That means a long walk home at the end of the day!

While on his way, he hears a strange sound which appears to need investigating. Guess what he finds? His bike hanging from a tree limb, and Adrian doing the same. Adrian's plight is more precarious. Ben wants to just walk away, and leave Adrian to his fate. He can't do it! Instead, he quickly returns and risks life and limb to ensure the bully's safety. There should be a reward for such selfless concern for another person, shouldn't there? It appears that is not to be the case...or is it?

I think that kids will really like Matt Davies' first picture book! His artwork is such fun, filling the pages with movement, sight gags (check out the shark fins), exaggerated characters, an ever-present crow, and a tale of bullying and bonhomie. He provides engaging and amusing perspectives, terrific expression on the part of both bird and human characters. I kept going back to take in all that he includes in the visuals.

There are no parents evident to help Ben or Adrian choose to make the decisions that they make. It is important for young readers to see themselves in situations where their independence and ability to deal with apparent difficulties are left to them. Dramatic, humorous, energetic and joyful are words that came to mind as I read this book to myself and then aloud...and will certainly read to others whenever the opportunity presents itself!

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