The Small World of Binky Braverman

The Small World of Binky Braverman

by Rosemary Wells, Richard Egielski

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Poor Binky. He should be spending the summer playing with his friends. Instead, his parents send him to the big city, where Aunt Fran dresses him in itchy clothes and Uncle Julius teaches him about fractions. Things look pretty bleak until the night Binky spies some tiny figures hopping off of boxes and jars all over the kitchen: the trademarks have come to


Poor Binky. He should be spending the summer playing with his friends. Instead, his parents send him to the big city, where Aunt Fran dresses him in itchy clothes and Uncle Julius teaches him about fractions. Things look pretty bleak until the night Binky spies some tiny figures hopping off of boxes and jars all over the kitchen: the trademarks have come to life! Together, Binky and his miniature friends-Sam the Banjo Man, the Paprika Twins, and Ike, who pilots a tiny propeller plane-transform a dreary summer into an extraordinary one. Rosemary Wells's endearing story about a lonely little boy is perfectly complemented in whimsical paintings by Richard Egielski.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Veterans Wells and Egielski are perfectly paired in this gentle, idiosyncratic little masterpiece about loneliness, imagination and friendship. — Elizabeth Ward
Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
In this book's magnetic preface, white-haired Stanley Braverman goes to pick up an inheritance from his late aunt. He finds his childhood clothes in the guest room of her empty house. "The pocket of a sailor suit still contained a wad of bubble gum. As the flavor swirled over Stanley's tongue, a forgotten summer flooded back as if sixty-five years was a wink on the smiling face of time." The Proustian gum takes Stanley back to 1938, when his parents, who are expecting a baby, send him to stay with his aunt in Memphis. But Stanley (aka Binky) prefers getting muddy in a rural swamp to wearing a suit and playing gin rummy. Late one night, Binky hears voices ("Oh, stay with us." "Yes, stay!"). Tiny characters, including the banjo player on a matchbox and the daredevil from a box of playing cards, have sprung to life to keep him company. Max and Ruby author Wells's plot strongly recalls Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden, in which another isolated boy accesses a miraculous world. Egielski's (Buz) sepia watercolors of the red-haired Binky, yellow-patterned wallpaper and old-fashioned kitchen and bath products reinforce the sense of a past American lifestyle. At the conclusion, Binky remains in the 1930s and leaves readers wondering about his 2003 self: having revisited his "small world," how does he awaken in the present day? This tantalizingly open-ended tale, especially its poignant introduction, explores the overlap between memory and imagination. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
A lick of a stick of bubblegum that Stanley "Binky" Braverman finds in his old sailor suit stuffed between the bed slats at his aunt's house sends his thoughts back 65 years to the summer he spent with his aunt and uncle. It was the summer his mother was expecting a baby. Binky left his friends and the carefree lifestyle of his country home for the city life where he was given itchy clothes, a new haircut and a new friend who cheated at card games. In the middle of the night when his homesickness was at its worst, Binky heard voices coming from the kitchen. There he discovered a world of little friends who had come alive. There was Sam who had been on the kitchen matchbox, the Paprika Twins from the spice box and even St. Joan from the box of washing powder. In short, they made life bearable until he learned he could return home. Binky packed his new friends and their bottles and boxes in his suitcase. At home, with his loneliness gone, Binky discovered these little friends were gone, too. But a quick word from Ike (Pilot Playing Cards) reassured him that if he ever needed them again, they would be there. Egielski captures the 1930s setting in the details of the radio, clothing and furniture styles while Wells captures the universal feelings of a little boy's solitude. Binky is wonderfully expressive and appealing. 2003, Viking, Ages 4 to 7.
— Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 4-When the grown-up Stanley "Binky" Braverman's 105-year-old Aunt Fran passes away, he returns to her home and is reminded of a powerful childhood memory. As a boy, he spent a summer in Memphis with his aunt and uncle while his parents prepared for a new baby. Even though his relatives adored him, Binky missed his friends and was uncomfortable in his fancy new city clothes. Late one night, he discovered that characters from various household products had come to life. He was no longer alone as the Yellow Bears from the syrup helped him finish breakfast and the Blue Nun from the ink bottle tutored him in long division. Ike, the friend he loved the best, soared from a deck of Pilot playing cards. Before returning home to his friends and family, Binky packed the items in his suitcase, but the little folks no longer communicated with him. In parting, Ike told him that if he was ever lonely again he should call them. Readers meet the adult Stanley in two introductory pages set before the title page, framing the story between present day and childhood memory. The watercolor illustrations complement Wells's imaginative text. Egielski's characteristic style evokes past times; the tones of the endpapers and selected spreads resemble sepia photographs. This gentle story will appeal to children, especially those who have had their own experiences with being away from home.-Shawn Brommer, South Central Library System, Madison, WI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A country boy forced to stay with smothering city relatives finds some surprising allies in this imaginative, if sketchy, reminiscence. An old man finds a bundle of clothes in his aunt's now-empty house, and recalls a summer he spent there 65 years ago. Instead of enjoying his beloved swamp, Binky finds himself with a new haircut and itchy new clothes, doing arithmetic problems at the behest of his accountant uncle, and playing cards with an enforced new "friend" who cheats. But loneliness changes to glee when he's greeted one night by the banjo player on a box of matches and other figures from labels on household products, all of whom come to life. Better yet, Binky becomes a whiz at math and rummy, thanks to his diminutive new allies. Depicting figures with typically lapidary precision, Egielski sets Binky's wide-eyed face like a huge moon over a coterie of tiny emblems, each rendered in a distinctive style and color. Wells leaves big narrative gaps that give the tale a herky-jerky pacing, but readers will get the gist, and may regard the labels around them with new eyes. (Picture book. 7-9)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
8.92(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.12(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Rosemary Wells ( is the award-winning author of many books for young readers.

Richard Egielski won the Caldecott Medal for Hey, Al and is the illustrator of many picture books, including Slim and Jim, and the Tub People books written by Pam Conrad.

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