A+ for Big Ben Reviews

The New York Times

BigBen_C_Oct16.indd“Ben, the youngest of three children in his family, can’t swim yet, or use chopsticks, or see much out the car window. His fifth grader sister gets a report card with marks, and his third grader brother ‘gets comments for his subjects,’ but Ben gets nothing. This leaves the preschooler feeling glum, until his siblings take him ‘into the office’ to remedy one of the gaps. ‘They type on the computer. They print on the printer.’ And then they issue him his own report card, awarding A+’s for his achievements, like ‘tooth brushing’ and ‘shoe tying’ and, most important, ‘making us laugh.’ This sweet and charmingly illustrated book takes seriously a preschooler’s need to feel that he is not left behind, while wittily defusing the reverence for grading that’s been creeping into elementary school culture.”

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School Library Journal

“Ben is not big. He is just a preschooler. His big sister, Robin, gets a report card in fifth grade, and his big brother Joe, in third grade, gets one, too. Ben feels more and more sad throughout the day when he keeps focusing on all the things his siblings can do that he cannot. That night, his siblings surprise him with a homemade report card, tracking all the things that Ben does best— like feeding the cat, whistling, and making others laugh. With encouraging comments and an A+ in all of his ‘subjects,’ Ben goes to sleep feeling very proud for all that he can do. VERDICT Softly hued illustrations with crayon black outlines showcase a sweet family celebrating their abilities in this board book that is suited for shared reading, preferably while snuggled on someone’s lap.”
—Lisa Kropp, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Publishers Weekly

“Despite the title, a boy named Ben is feeling anything but big—his older, school-age siblings get report cards, can swim, and have no trouble using chopsticks when the family goes out for dinner. Luckily, siblings Robin and Joe sense the preschooler’s unhappiness, and they create a report card just for Ben. His subjects include feeding the cat, shoe tying, and ‘making us laugh,’ and he gets A-pluses across the board. Loosely defined by rough, crayonlike lines, LaFave’s images have a swoopy, gestural quality; like Ellis’s text, they take a minimalist approach to the range of emotions Ben is feeling, from jealousy to disappointment and pride. Ages 2–up.”

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“Ben is too small for most of the things older sister Robin and older brother Joe enjoy. Too small for school, too small for swimming strokes or reading the menu in a restaurant. Even too small to see out the window in the car. The sensitivity of his siblings helps lift Ben out of the funk he is in. The pair create a report card for Ben, complete with letter grades and comments. The assessment? It’s an A+ for Ben in all of the special talents he contributes to the family: feeding the cat, shoe tying, tooth brushing and making family members laugh.

This delightful short book perfectly encapsulates the trials and tribulations of being the baby of the family, all the while showing the special regard held toward him by the rest of the family.”
—Moira Kirkpatrick

CM Magazine

“…This sweet story will resonate with preschool age children, especially those children who have older siblings to compare themselves to and who often feel or are told that they are too young to do certain things. The activities in Ben’s day are common in the lives of many preschoolers and will feel familiar….

The text of the story is simple, approachable, and strongly supported by the illustrations. The illustrations by Kim LaFave are bright and colorful. Each illustration is focused on the subject (usually Ben), and backgrounds are sparse (if necessary for context) or not there at all. This method of illustrating makes it easy to infer the story from what the reader sees. The illustrations are also emotionally evocative…

A+ for Big Ben is a charming story of growing up, but not necessarily as fast as one might like. In particular, it will resonate with preschool aged children who always want to grow up and be just like the big kids. This would be a good purchase for public libraries and other libraries that serve children in the preschool age group.

Highly Recommended.

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Winnipeg Free Press

“Vancouver author Sarah Ellis is well-known for her books for young adults and intermediate readers. In A+ for Big Ben (Pajama Press, $10, board book) she has written a delightful story for youngest readers (ages 2-5)….

B.C. artist Kim La Fave has added large, colourful illustrations that help make this a book that will be a favourite with any child who wants to be ‘like the big guys.’”
—Helen Norrie

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National Reading Campaign

“Governor-General’s Award winners, Sarah Ellis and Kim La Fave, weave their skills together, creating a truly charming tale. Ellis has a knack for capturing the emotions inherent in family dynamics. When Ben’s brother and sister give him his own report card, readers are touched by their understanding and just as proud as Ben at his list of skills. La Fave’s colourful illustrations jump off the white pages, his characters’ lively and varied expressions created with a simplicity that belies their depth.

Gentle and sweet with a happy ending, this board book edition is an adaptation of the original Big Ben (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2001). The format works well for the age group; the large size makes for easy handling by tiny fingers.”

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