Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Books We Love: “Benny’s Brigade” by Arthur Bradford

It’s not often I describe a children’s picture book as haunting, but there is something hauntingly real about this fantastical tale of a miniature walrus Benny and the sisters who help him get home to the sea. With beautiful illustrations by Lisa Hanawalt, Benny’s Brigade by O. Henry award winning author Arthur Bradford seems just right for the change of the seasons, as the tale begins as sisters Elsie and Theo are walking to school. Benny’s Brigade feels like that last little wisp of summer that appears right before fall begins in earnest.

Theo and Elsie find a large walnut on the ground. From inside, a tiny voice begs to be let out. They pry open the nut to discover “an extremely tiny walrus.” Benny’s quite the gentleman and a self-described example of a very small walrus (to say the least). Benny makes a big hit with the kids at school. They all participate in the plan to help Benny get back home to his tiny island in the sea. They build him a boat (which makes them all part of Benny’s Brigade) and the boat is crewed by a trio of adventurous slugs. The children see the boat off, but it is Benny and the slugs who must pilot the boat to safety.

There’s something of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in Benny’s Brigade. The style of writing takes its wondrousness for granted in a very charming way. Benny’s a truly memorable little walrus, like Alice’s walrus. This is a gentle little tale of comings and goings and of hearts open to adventure. And like most books published by McSweeney’s McMullens, the cover unfolds to become a beautiful, two-sided poster (on very heavy paper, to boot). This over-sized picture book is perfect for gifting, especially if the recipient is your own child.

1 comment:

  1. I love the artwork and the story sounds great too!