Ben Says Goodbye Reviews

Booklist

Ben Says Goodbye | Sarah Ellis & Kim La Fave | Pajama Press“Ben and his friend Peter watch as movers load their truck with box after box, followed by Peter’s red bicycle. Ben finds it hard to say goodbye. Once Peter is gone, he decides to move under the table and become a caveboy, eating with his fingers and drawing on the cave wall with a pointed stick. After completing a complex narrative picture featuring two boys, Ben leaves the cave and rejoins his family. Looking out the window later, he sees a new truck, with movers unloading boxes, followed by a child-sized, neon-blue scooter. Ellis hits all the right notes in this sensitive text. Ben may not be able to talk through his downcast emotional state (particularly since Caveboy Ben says only, “guh”), but with his supportive family in the background, he works things out on his own. Le Fave’s strong, expressive line drawings make the characters’ emotions easy to read. He illustrates Ben’s cave period in earthy tones, contrasting with other, more colorful scenes. A satisfying picture book and a welcome sequel to Ben over Night (2005)”

Kirkus Reviews

“Little Ben’s best friend, Peter, is moving away, and Ben is heartbroken. The only way he can deal with his sadness is by moving himself—not away, however, but to an imaginary cave under the table. Caveboy Ben eats with his fingers, plays with rocks, and protects himself with a club and a stick. He communicates mostly nonverbally, using “Guh” for everything. In the safety of his cave, he expresses his loss in an imaginative series of drawings depicting the two best buddies having fun and doing all kinds of boy stuff. The drawings become increasingly complex, showing the two friends tunneling toward each other through an underground world of subways, ancient cities, and buried treasure. The center of the Earth is, of course, the perfect place for a barbecue, so the boys roast chili dogs and hang out in Ben’s cave drawings. The spell is broken when Ben smells popcorn, returning somewhat grudgingly to his long-suffering family. In a reversal of the opening scene, movers arrive at Peter’s old house, bringing boxes and a scooter that clearly belongs to someone Ben’s age, perhaps a new friend. The upbeat, cartoon-style drawings, thickly outlined with an effect that looks like charcoal, neatly complement the simple, declarative text. Any young child who has experienced the loss of a close friend will find this story resonant.”

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New York Times

“When Peter moves away, Ben does not want to say goodbye, or do much of anything. He decides to move too — under the table, to become a cave boy. There he grunts instead of talking and draws stories about two friends on the “walls.” When he’s ready to come out, a potential new friend is settling in at Peter’s house. Ellis’s simple story catches the rhythms of moving and of grieving, while La Fave’s black crayon-like lines and minimal faces register the oversize worries a little guy can carry around.”

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“Ben’s friend is moving away. Ben does not want to see his friend go and does not want to say goodbye. These are difficult concepts for young children to have to learn. Ben creates his cave world to help him come to terms with the loss of his friend. When Ben has spent the time he needs to move forward, he leaves his imaginary world and rejoins his family in their world. He also spies the possibility of making a new friend when he sees the scooter wheeled outside the moving truck next door.

This is an excellent resource to use in helping a young child through the difficult time of families moving from the neighbourhood. Making new friends is sometimes hard to do, but Ben’s experience speaks to the problem from the point of view of that young child and shows that it is possible to do. Highly recommended for parents, young children, classroom discussions, and story time.”

Quill & Quire

“Veteran children’s author (and Q&Q contributing editor) Sarah Ellis adds another title to her Ben series of picture books (produced in collaboration with illustrator Kim La Fave). This touching, realistically told story of a little boy dealing with the hardship of his best friend moving away is a rarity in a kidlit landscape littered with animals and imaginary beings. La Fave’s colourful illustrations are warm and accessible, adding another comforting element to a useful and pitch-perfect story that allows kids to see hope in a bleak situation.”

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Foreword Reviews

“When a best friend moves away, it can be very painful. In Ben Says Goodbye, that loss is addressed with sensitivity and honesty….The accompanying illustrations are simple, but they do an excellent job of portraying Ben’s feelings as he watches Peter leave and then re-imagines their friendship. The book offers a wonderful tool for helping young children cope with this type of loss.”

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“During the preschool years, children often forge their first friendships and these relationships can be very intense. Here, Sarah Ellis explores how a young boy handles his sadness when his best friend moves away.

Ben is distraught because his best friend is leaving the neighbourhood. He opts to move, too, and seeks refuge in a cave (the space under the kitchen table) where his sole companion is a tamed (stuffed) lion. Adopting the persona of a cave boy, Ben resorts to grunting the sole sound of “guh” when his family speak to him.

While camped out in his makeshift dwelling, Ben finds solace in his two imagined stories about friendship. Using a pointed stick (pencil), he sketches his tales as a series of drawings on the walls of his cave. One tale tells of two boys who are best friends and of their fun and heroic antics. The other tale tells of two friends, living on different sides of the world, who dig their way to reunite in the centre of the Earth for a short visit.

When Ben smells butter in the air, he emerges from his cave and rejoins his family to share some popcorn. When he hears a moving truck’s beeping from across the street, he heads to the window to investigate the sound. From his post on the couch, Ben spies a neon-blue Scorcher Scooter—just the perfect size for a new pal.

The author offers a charming and delightful story in which a preschooler’s feelings and thoughts ring true. La Fave’s endearing softly-hued illustrations, accentuated by black outlines, accompany this gentle tale. Ben’s cave drawings, rendered in black on an ochre background, populate the book’s endpapers. This is a clever touch that offers readers an additional visual level on which to extend and enjoy the story.

Readers who wish to read more about Ben and his adventures will also enjoy A+ for Big Ben (a recent board-book version of Ellis and La Fave’s 2001 title, Big Ben).”
—Carol-Ann Hoyte

CM Magazine

“…Losing a friend to a move is a familiar experience for children and adults alike, and this story will resonate with readers. Readers will relate to Ben’s unwillingness to say goodbye and his inclination to hide away and remember the fun times he and Peter had together. However, after being given some time and space to process his complicated emotions, Ben emerges ready to connect with his supportive family and consider the possibility of new friendships. The text of the story is accessible and simple…The text also accurately captures the thoughts and feelings of a young child dealing with a sad life change.

The illustrations by Kim LaFave in this story appear to be a combination of drawn and computer-generated, and they strongly support the text They are colourful and engaging, and the facial expressions on the characters are expressive. They also add depth and undertone to the text that is not there without them. For example, when the text describes Ben retreating under the table, he is said to have a club, a pointed stick, and a tame lion. Readers will see though through the illustrations that these are really a flashlight, a pencil, and a stuffed lion. The cave drawings that Ben appears to draw are also excellent, depicting a world of fancy and imagination perfect for a creative child. The entire feel of the pages with his drawings is completely different from the feel of the illustrations in the rest of the book, which serves the story well. It is also an interesting device to watch the progression of Ben’s stuffed lion in the book go from neglected toy to his only friend to security blanket.

…Ben Says Goodbye would be a good purchase for public libraries and school libraries that serve children in the preschool/kindergarten age group.

Highly Recommended
—Carla Epp is a hospital librarian with the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

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Midwest Book Review

“Sarah Ellis’s haunting language brings the story to life….A gentle story of change…”

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