Ben Rides On

illus. by author. 32p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. May 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-794-4. LC 2012013101.
Gr 1–3—"Now that he had the bicycle of his dreams, Ben Lukin loved going to school." And what adventures he has en route: tunneling through water pipes, zipping over aqueducts, leaping over a stream bed filled with sharks. Does this sound like a circuitous route to class? You bet it is. Once he arrives at Watson Elementary, Ben must face Adrian Underbite, world's largest third grader. This witty and wonderful story revolves around Ben, Adrian, and Ben's bike and has a lot to say-in sometimes delightfully sophisticated words-about bullying, charity, and redemption. Davies's cartoons are simply the bees' knees. Facial expressions, gestures, postures, perspectives: all conspire, with a ragged, raucous elegance, to make Ben Rides On an exceptional, and exceptionally likable, tale.—Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY
Editorial cartoonist Davies puts his wild cartooning imagination to good use in this book about a boy, his bicycle, and a bully. Ben, all scrawny limbs and giant head, rides his bike to school (he's helmetless, but there's a disclaimer note on the copyright page). When he takes the "very, very long way," he travels over bridges, moves past shark-infested waters, and leaps over school buses. When he gets to school, he faces a really big problem -- Adrian Underbite, "perhaps the world's largest third-grader." Adrian immediately relieves Ben of his bike but manages to ride it over a cliff. Only Ben can rescue him. Will he? ("How extraordinarily terrible," says Ben, but the picture shows him smiling with wicked glee.) Each line of Davies's work -- both text and illustrations -- is filled with motion or humor, and usually both. There are lots of details in the pictures, including a bedraggled-looking blackbird that acts as Ben's sidekick. The surprise twists at the end (including a great fake-out) bring a fresh and welcome perspective to the bully-changes-his-stripes story. susan dove lempke

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