Ben, King of the River

Ben, King of the River

by David Gifaldi, Layne Johnson

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Chad is looking forward to his family's first camping trip, but he worries that his five-year-old brother Ben, who is "different" (developmentally disabled) won't be able to handle the unfamiliarity. Sure enough, Ben misses his routines, especially watching videos. Ben has a great time swimming, but he freaks out around bugs and embarrasses Chad in front of other boys who label Ben a "weirdo." Yet it is Ben's friendly charm that wins the jeering boys over. At day's end the family snuggles deep in their sleeping bags in their tent beside the river. Gifaldi wrote this insightful, funny book with help from his nephew Josh, who, like Chad, has a developmentally disabled younger brother. Without patronage or sappiness, the story explores what it is like to have a disabled sibling. Chad's feelings for Ben range from worry to loyalty to embarrassment to resentment to deep love. Lending realism and intimacy, the author mentions such details as Ben's holding out his arms for a hug as he sits on the toilet. Johnson's brightly colored, expressive paintings successfully render the characters' feelings, the bracing outdoor beauty and the coziness of camping. The book includes a letter from Josh and a list of tips for the siblings of disabled kids. 2001, Albert Whitman, $14.95. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer:Robyn Raymer
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-Chad is not looking forward to camping with his younger brother, who is developmentally disabled. The family engages in typical outdoor activities, such as setting up the tent, hiking, and swimming. In each of them, Ben reacts in a way that annoys or embarrasses Chad. When they are swimming, other boys make fun of Ben, although they all meet up later in the woods and make friends. The story shows the different emotions that the sibling of a mentally disabled individual might feel and thus should be helpful to a child facing the same situation. The watercolor illustrations attempt to show the feelings of the family through facial expressions and depict the wildlife, such as deer, raccoons, and insects, but they are generally not well executed. The story is followed by comments from the young boy used as the model for the story and some useful tips about living with a mentally disabled sibling. A serviceable but not outstanding addition.-Margaret C. Howell, West Springfield Elementary School, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Concept Books Series
Product dimensions:
7.81(w) x 9.88(h) x 0.34(d)
Age Range:
5 - 9 Years

Read an Excerpt

Ben, King of the River

By David Gifaldi, Layne Johnson


Copyright © 2001 David Gifaldi
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8075-0635-6


I can't wait! Our first family camping trip! I hope Ben doesn't ruin it.

Ben is my brother. He's five ... and different. Mom says he has a developmental disability. He was born that way. He was born with other problems, too, which is why he's had four operations so far. Mom says Ben's a fierce fighter. He is. But he also has diaper blowouts, allergies, and doesn't like new things.

That's why I'm worried

I read Ben his ABC books on the way out of town. When it's time to recite, he gets to G okay. Then skips to L-M-P and Q-R-Z.

"No," I say.

"NO!" he says, throwing the book on the floor.

"Mom, Ben's being difficult," I say.

Ben covers his upper lie with his tongue. Then reaches over to give me a hug.

Even though he's five, Ben still wears diapers. He's working on using the toilet, but he needs practice.

Inside the rest area stall, Ben giggles as Dad tickles his feet and makes grunting noises to get him in the mood. Hearing Dad make bathroom sounds is funny. I have to laugh.

"You got any better ideas?" he asks.

I sure don't.

"Chad!" Ben says, spreading his arms for a hug.

"Gee," I say. "He even has to hug on the toilet."

The campground is great. Much better than the pictures in the brochure. We pull into site 14, close to the river. "Can we go for a hike now?" I ask.

Of course we can't. There's a ton of stuff to do first. Mom cleans the picnic table and sets up lunch while I help Dad with the tent. Ben's way of helping is to charge inside before the tent is even up.

"Video," he says before long.

"Campers don't watch videos," Dad says.

I pick up a pine cone. "Look at all these," I say. "You can line them up like racecars."

"No!" he says.

"No, yourself," I say.

I feel like a real trailblazer after lunch when we hike the river trail. My nose goes crazy taking in all the sweet smells coming from the trees and needles and wildflowers. We see a blue heron and two kingfishers. After a while, Ben starts whining and asking for a video.

"Don't you want to go to the waterfall?" I say.

"No," he says.

When a bug flies around his head, he screams, pulling his arms and shoulders in like he does to protect himself.

"It's just a bug," I say.

"Maybe I'd better take him back," Mom says.

"Baby," I say under my breath.

Dad and I hike on till we come to a footbridge that overlooks a waterfall. It has a great name—Wizard Falls. We look hard to figure out why. Then I see it. "Look at the shape of the white water, Dad— up above. A wizard's hat!"

A lady with a dog asks if we'd like a picture together. Dad gives her his camera. The dog comes right up to me, jumping up and licking my face.

"You must be a dog-lover," the lady says.

"I'd like to have one," I say.

"Hear that, Dad," she says.

Dad nods, but we both know Ben is allergic to dogs.

Ben is in his swimsuit when we get back. "He's been waiting patiently," Mom says.

Dad and I change and the four of us go to where there's a beach area with people swimming. Ben runs right in up to his knees, then turns around with his arms raised high like he's King of the River.

The water is freezing cold, but Ben doesn't mind. He sits down, water lapping his chest, and plays with the stones and stuff on the bottom. Dad takes a dip and runs, howling for his towel.


Excerpted from Ben, King of the River by David Gifaldi, Layne Johnson. Copyright © 2001 David Gifaldi. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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