Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends by Joanne Linden

Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends by Joanne Linden, illustrated by Tom Goldsmith
Flashlight Press

Rating: 5 stars

I love surprise endings. As a grown up reading kids' books, I'm not surprised very often by the ending. But the author and illustrator worked together and got me on this one. I'm beginning to see a trend--I didn't see the end coming in The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, which I reviewed last week. Am I becoming a little less gullible? I sure hope so. I like the idea of being so in-the-moment (or on the current page) that my mind doesn't think too much about what's coming next (or on the final page). I'll get there when I get there.


This is a super new book with laugh-out-loud pages and wonder-what'll-happen pages and one big oh-my-gosh-OF-COURSE! page at the end. Linden writes in a format you don't see very often: some parts rhyme, some parts don't. It works, and how nice for something a little different. And the book wouldn't be as super without the sweet and funny illustrations by Goldsmith.

Here's the story:

Two friends, Ben and Zip, are walking along the boardwalk on a hot, summer day. Suddenly, a storm overshadows the beach and Zip gets a little nervous and runs off. Ben can't find him; he spends the next dozen pages searching for his buddy.

First he searches low, from his own short perspective. And all he sees are:
Right knees, left knees, knees with sandy patches.
Fat knees, bony knees, knees with bumps and scratches.

Next he gets a little higher, and scouts from the top of a bench. All he sees are (and how great is this illustration?!):
Round bellies, flat bellies, bellies white and brown.
Hairy bellies, jelly bellies, bellies hanging down.

You see the pattern, I'm sure. As the clouds open up and rain starts coming down, Ben searches high among the heads and then climbs up to the tallest lifeguard stand he can find to look at the now empty beach. No Zip. Where could he be?

Right at this point, my kids started to get worried. They were all in to this story and cared very much for Ben and even more for Zip, even though they didn't know what he looked like. It was Zip, of course, who was lost and they know how scary that can feel. (You know an author's done something right when three kids of three different ages are still, quiet, and impatiently waiting to find out what's next.)

And then Ben hears something. And they two friends are reunited. And my three kids could finally lean back in their chairs and breathe a sigh of relief. And this truly happened: they sat back in their chairs, laughed a little, and then came forward in their chairs, demanding I read it again so that they could look for clues that they should/could have seen to figure out who Zip is earlier.

I can't tell the ending. You've got to find out for yourself! If you're in Fairfax County, this book will be in circulation soon--at least one, lone copy of it. Flashlight Press sent me a copy to review and I'll be donating it to the library so more than my three kids can enjoy it.

Disclaimer: Too Much Glue was provided to me by the publisher. However, my opinions are written free of obligation, compensation or agreement from the publisher.

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