A Perfect Friend

A Perfect Friend

4.2 4
by Reynolds Price

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A Moving Fable For Readers Of All Ages -- From National Book Critics Circle Award-Winning Author Reynolds Price

Ben Barks loved elephants long before he'd seen one. He sometimes wondered how that love started....

It's been a whole year since Ben's mother died, and nothing has soothed his broken heart -- except thinking about elephants, those


A Moving Fable For Readers Of All Ages -- From National Book Critics Circle Award-Winning Author Reynolds Price

Ben Barks loved elephants long before he'd seen one. He sometimes wondered how that love started....

It's been a whole year since Ben's mother died, and nothing has soothed his broken heart -- except thinking about elephants, those magnificent creatures his mother loved too. Imagining their awesome grace always calms him in a way that his sad father and closest friends never can. When a one-ring circus comes to Ben's small town, he discovers Sala, an elephant who survived a wicked trainer's abuses. And soon, their powerful bond becomes a miraculous healer -- and gives Ben renewed hope for the future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
HIn his first book for children, Price pens a slow, dreamy story of a boy wrestling with grief over his mother's death. Ben Barks, now 11, and his mother used to spend hours drawing elephants and reading about them. Ben still dreams of having an elephant of his own, a friend with whom he can share his deepest secrets, in the same way he confides in his dog Hilda, whose voice he sometimes hears in his thoughts. It's Hilda who tells him, "This thing that's coming will help your whole life"--and she's right. When a small circus comes to town and Ben meets Sala, a lonely elephant who also knows tragedy, their encounter is both dangerous and magical, filling Ben with hope for the first time since his mother died. For all the boy-animal communication, the novel is driven more by its style than its plot. The languid pace may frustrate readers or leave some feeling strangely disconnected, and it's doubtful whether the target audience will linger over the poetic elisions. At the same time, however, the beauty of the language acts as lure (a house lit up at night looks like "an old-time ocean liner, afloat and steaming toward some destination that nobody knew"), and Ben is an exceedingly sympathetic character. For those up to the challenge, here is a sophisticated, haunting exploration of grief's flickering shadows, of friendship and love and of the elusive nature of happiness. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) FYI: The jacket illustration is by Maurice Sendak. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature
This haunting story of loss and friendship traces Ben Laughinghorse Banks through his eleventh year. It's been a year since his mother died, and he still misses her "so much that the sadness keeps him awake at night." To help himself sleep, he thinks about elephants, those strong, fearless animals that his mother had loved. Ben has seen living elephants only once, and when a small circus travels through his town he is determined not only to see one again but also to touch it. The circus has had hard times, too. Three of their four elephants have been poisoned, and the manager protects the remaining one, keeping her locked up and allowing no outsiders to visit her. But when Ben demonstrates that he needs to visit her, the manager relents. Ben discovers that his unusual talent for communicating with animals extends from his mother's elderly dog to the solitary elephant Sala. Lonely, solitary Ben finds that his two close human friends—his cousin Robin and his classmate Dunk—as well as Hilda the dog and Sala the elephant, will help him grow to be the man his mother would have been proud of. 2000, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.00. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Ben Laughinghouse Barks adored his mother. She taught him to love elephants, long before he saw one. They drew pictures of them together. Now that she has died, he is left with a father, a cousin, and a friend, and struggles with his grief. He feels that he will never be happy again, and remains remote and alone in spite of their presence. He finds a perfect friend in an elephant named Sala, the greatest possession of a visiting one-ring circus. Ben finds that he can communicate with her, and they become trusty companions. Through this relationship, the boy begins to work through his sadness and is able to tell his mother about Sala when she presents herself to him in a dream. Ben tells her about his new hope and recent luck of finding his perfect friend and explains that he can now grow to be a trustworthy man with a useful job and a family. The mood is set from the start and the narrative maintains it throughout. It has a cadence of stepping footstep by footstep through Ben's life. Readers know that everything will come together and hear (rather than see) the story unfold. Unfortunately, the story is told in an adult voice, and from an adult perspective, rather than that of an 11-year-old, and it's unlikely that young readers will relate to Ben or feel his attachment to Sala.-Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this dreamy, allusive tale from a distinguished writer for adults, grief loses its clutches on a boy's heart thanks to time, loyal friends, and a healing encounter with a circus elephant. The strong affinity for elephants Ben shared with his mother has, if anything, intensified in the year since her death. The news that a circus is coming to town throws him into a fever of excitement, though being a reserved, inward sort, he shows it largely by snubbing his friends Dunk and Robin, feeling that sharing the performance risks spoiling it. The small circus arrives at last, with one elephant: Sala, the sad sole survivor of a quartet that, Ben learns, was poisoned recently by a cruel trainer. Ben talks his way into Sala's private tent and has an epiphany when she picks him up with her trunk and sets him on her back. Price is less a storyteller here than a studier of character, and much of what does happen has a mystical air or is freighted with an indistinct significance. Ben treats Dunk and Robin so badly—even his kind, grieving father accuses him of being coldhearted—that readers won't always like him, but since he's so obviously in pain they may forgive him, and applaud his friends for sticking with him. Still, most children will labor to finish this. (Fiction. 11-13)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Reynolds Price (1933-2011) was born in Macon, North Carolina. Educated at Duke University and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Merton College, Oxford University, he taught at Duke beginning in 1958 and was the James B. Duke Professor of English at the time of his death. His first short stories, and many later ones, are published in his Collected Stories. A Long and Happy Life was published in 1962 and won the William Faulkner Award for a best first novel. Kate Vaiden was published in 1986 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Good Priest's Son in 2005 was his fourteenth novel. Among his thirty-seven volumes are further collections of fiction, poetry, plays, essays, and translations. Price is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his work has been translated into seventeen languages.

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Perfect Friend 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book at school for a book report in 8th grade and i love it. THE SUMMARY doesnt fit the book at al if i would give.a summary it wwould be - Ben and is father havee been torn to peices about the painful death if bens mother leaving him to belive nothing else is good in the woulrld expect for the gentle giants that we all know as elephants. BEN doesn't want to take in any good news because he is afraid it will turn out good news could bring sorrow. bens girl cousin robin has a tightbond with ben and trys to make him laugh. Dunckon , aka Dunk, Is one of bens friends too. Dunk has a tragic life back home with the beatings his father puts on him. But dunk has always been by bens side no matter what unfourtnely though dunk is always subtracted from theequation. A great story about relizing what you can overcome and looking around at the people that care for you that you treat like a peice of crap. LOVE THOSEE WHO LOVE YOU AND EVEN THE ONES THAT DONT
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never bother to write reviews, but this book is so touching, so lovely, I had to let people know. My 9 year old loved this story and so did I. This book tells Ben's story with such grace and sensitivity. Do not miss this story, it is one book that you will not want to lend for fear you won't get it back. Just a truly beautifully told tale for young or old.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is it a chapter book or picture book? PLEASE ANSWER!!!!!!