Stealin' Wheels: Ben Rides On by Matt Davies
NOW THAT HE HAD THE BICYCLE OF HIS DREAMS, BEN LUKIN LOVED GOING TO SCHOOL.
WITH HIS GLEAMING NEW MACHINE, HE COULD TAKE THE LONG WAY,
OR PERHAPS THE VERY LONG WAY.
At last Ben Lukin has wheels and his first ride to school is a bit of extreme biking which encourages a trip through a drainage tunnel and an exuberant Evel Knievel jump over five school buses!
But Ben's new wheels catch the eye of the wrong guy, the official class bully:
SSADLY, ADRIAN UNDERBITE, PERHAPS THE WORLD'S LARGEST THIRD GRADER, DIDN'T SEEM TO LIKE BEN VERY MUCH.
With a evil, gleeful look that dares Ben to do anything about it, the enormous Underbite appropriates Ben's new bike and rides off on it gleefully, leaving the crestfallen Ben to hoof it home, with only a pesky crow for company.
But as Ben trudges along, he hears a loud WWWGGRRAAWWWWWWW!
Following the wretched cry, Ben peers over the edge of a cliff and sees his bike bent and broken at the bottom and a terrified Adrian Underbite clinging precariously to the limb of a tiny tree growing not far below the edge of the precipice.
"HOW EXTRAORDINARILY TERRIBLE!" grins Ben in mock horror.
Satisfied that Adrian Underbite has gotten his just desserts, Ben walks away.
But after few steps Ben's conscience kicks in and he reconsiders the situation.
JUST WHEN ADRIAN THOUGHT HE COULD NOT HOLD ON ANY LONGER, A VERY FAMILIAR GREEN-AND-WHITE HOODIE APPEARED. ADRIAN REACHED UP AND GRABBED FOR DEAR LIFE.
Does the rescued Underbite have a change of heart? Does he beg for forgiveness from his rescuer? Are the two set to be best friends forever? Well, no. He grabs Ben's beat-up bike and lumbers off on his size 10 feet with it. Sadly, Ben slogs homeward, believing that indeed, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.
But there's an unforeseen and redeeming ending to Matt Davies' delightful little morality tale, the just published Ben Rides On (Roaring Brook, 2013). Pulitizer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Davies makes his debut with this engaging picture book that offers literal cliff-hanging suspense and scratchy-lined, comic illustrations, with its hero Ben all attenuated long limbs and large head, the hulking bully Underbite, loutish and lumpen, and even a nosy, crabby crow who pitches in to help Ben haul Adrian up over the cliff's edge. While Davies' drawings are highly stylized, his body language and funny facial expressions add to the humor that permeates this book which surprisingly ends on an upbeat note, promising many pedaling adventures ahead for Ben.
"Facial expressions, gestures, postures, perspectives: all conspire, with a ragged, raucous elegance, to make Ben Rides On an exceptional, and exceptionally likable, tale," says School Library Journal.