Benji Davies

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My current obsession in the children’s book world is illustrations by Benji Davies.  Two years ago when I read The Storm Whale, the first book Davies both wrote and illustrated, I briefly considered tearing pages out of enough copies to make wallpaper. The story of a friendship between a boy and a whale is quiet, but moving and beautiful.   Look at this picture of Noi, the little boy, and his dad in their kitchen. To me, this is a scene of total contentment:

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Next, Davies illustrated Big Friends by Linda Sarah. I bought this book because Davies name was on the cover. Smart decision. Big Friends is a perfect read aloud, and it confirmed my membership in the Davies fan club.

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The story of three boys and a cardboard box, optimism shines through on every page.  Kids enjoy it because it’s about a situation they recognize. Two friends are playing happily with a big box.  They imagine their box is a space ship and a pirate ship and it’s all good fun  – until a third boy arrives and wants to join in.  Sad feelings happen and then there’s a happy resolution that, of course, involves a big box.

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And now – Grandad’s Island, another book that Davies has both written and illustrated. This one is totally different. Grandad’s Island is about the special relationship between Syd, a young boy, and his grandfather.  You can feel their love for one another on every colorful page.

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But this is a story about loss.  The two of them embark on a trip to a fantastical island, but when it’s time to return home, the grandfather tells Syd “I’m thinking of staying.”

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Syd goes back to his granddad’s house, and although there is a sign that his grandfather is happy, Syd knows that things won’t be the same.

I don’t think a young child would read this story as being about death, but an older child definitely would. Grandad’s Island is one of those books that may be different for every reader.  I’m going to dedicate some open space next to Davies’ books on the library shelf – with my fingers crossed that it will be filled by more books!

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A group of Upper Elementary students is hearing The Little Prince in three languages. One of their teachers is reading the original French , and a rotating group of visitors are reading The Little Prince or El Principito. Last week I read two chapters (in English, of course) and the experience of hearing three languages reading the same words one after the other is really interesting.

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During the French reading, I enjoyed listening to the language and recognizing “Le Petit Prince” being said every so often.  During the Spanish reading, I shared my English version with a student sitting nearby, and we pointed to where we thought the reader was in the text. The student recognized more words than I did, but I caught rojo!

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After hearing the three readings, the students talked about words they recognized or those they wanted to hear again. It’s a beautiful way to begin the school day.

 

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