Benjamin’s Book [Alan Baker]

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Tea in a Tippee Cup today, please.

There are waaaaay too many fantastic, and yet almost unheard of, children’s books out there for me not to write anything about any of them. And – I’m not fooling anyone – I’m going to get a huge nostalgia kick from taking a look at a few of my childhood favourites. In weekly posts on children’s fiction (and maybe the odd non-fiction – I know I have a corker about tractors I could share with you all), I’ll also try to take a look at some of the contemporary books on the market for children at the moment, so as to keep things current and not lost in an early 90s fug.

Which leads us to today’s book – ‘Benjamin’s Book’ by Alan Baker. In a departure from the trend of all of two posts, I have actually posted the book’s cover artwork to accompany this piece, as it was just too adorable not to. It’s also going to help me convey to you exactly what Benjamin is; I was honestly never sure whether he was a hamster or a guinea-pig. Either way, he is a mild-mannered, conscientious little guy who accidentally makes a tiny paw-print smudge on the blank page he is leaning on while he says hello to you. He’s upset, and wants to fix things, but his good intentions only serve to make things worse as he uses all manner of creative, but ultimately unsuccessful, remedies to erase the dirty mark.

If you are a lucky enough kid to have a mum who turns storytime into a sort of amateur dramatic society audition, then this book will be hilarious. Beware of the pathos that can accompany any delivery not turned up to maximum bubbliness, though. I know that these days I’d probably just feel really bad for Benjamin – he tries so hard but the problem just gets worse and worse and he’s becoming more and more helpless to fix it and…

Ahem. Anyway

My mum and I discovered this book in our local library when I was little, and according to her I became literally obsessed with it. I wouldn’t talk(/babble) about anything else, and to her dismay none of our local bookshops sold it. As this episode pre-dated internet shopping (and in fact general internet usage) by quite some time, my poor mum had to make a lot of calls and eventually found a stockist about two hours drive away. And she went there and picked it up for me. I’d say it was a pretty worthwhile trip, though, because here I am 20 years later – still unable to shut up about the magic of ‘Benjamin’s Book’.

Would recommend to:

You could read this to an infant, if you wanted to spend some time just looking at beautifully drawn illustrations and a cute hamster in glasses with your baby. From there I’d probably recommend this up to around age 3 or 4. It is extremely simplistic, with no more than a sentence on each page; the focus is definitely on the pictures. But it is charming, and I think that this charm will make it appealing a little way beyond the age at which you might otherwise be progressing to something slightly more “big-kid”.

I’m looking for other great children’s books, where do I start?

Here is where I have to give a shout out to Letterbox Library, where you will find the most wonderfully diverse selection of children’s books you could dream of. They specialise in books which confront difficult topics such as bullying, and family break-ups. They also offer books about subjects you won’t often find elsewhere – anti-slavery, gender equality and lesbian and gay themes are all listed on their site, which I have linked below.

http://www.letterboxlibrary.com/

What do you think?

What were your childhood favourites? Have you ever coerced a parent into traveling for miles to find the perfect book – or have you been that parent? Let me know in the comments.

Until we meet again, have a lovely time down memory lane! x

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