Benji, the Bad Day and Me by Sally J. Pla, illustrated by Ken Min. Lee & Low Books, 9781620143452, 2018.
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? Sammy is having the worst day ever and when he gets home, soaking wet and angry, his mom reminds him to be quiet. His brother Benji is playing in his special box, because he also had a bad day, at preschool… But Benji has autism and Sammy feels jealous. No one tiptoes around when he’s feeling blue. He’d like to karate chop Benji’s box and stomp on his toys! When Sammy finally breaks down in tears, it’s Benji who knows how to make him feel better — wrapping him up tightly in a fuzzy blanket and crooning that he’s Benji’s little burrito. It’s lovely to see the brothers helping each other and it’s a solid portrayal of both the behavior of someone with autism and how Benji can still connect with and comfort his older brother. Pla has a son with autism and the book reflects real life with her own kids. I liked the honest portrayal of Sammy’s anger at having to adjust his behavior to accommodate his younger brother.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I liked the style of Min’s art work (bold acrylics and colored pencil) better than the storytelling. Pla uses flashbacks as Sammy recalls his bad day, building the cardboard house and Benji’s trips to therapy. Min signals the flashbacks by inking a puffy, cloud-like border around the images, which I found clunky. Still, it’s a unique subject for a picture book, which might compensate for that awkwardness.
To whom would you recommend this book? Great for integrated classrooms, families with children who have autism, as a read aloud about people with disabilities or about how families support one another. Also for ways of handling anger and stress; readers may compare it to When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries.
Where would you shelve it ? Picture books, or if you have a parent section, might be good there.
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: October 29, 2018