Thursday, November 01, 2018

Beware of the Dog? Ben and the Scaredy Dog by Sarah Ellis

Ben's family looks at dogs in different ways.

Ben's big sister Robin sees fun, fetch, and floppy ears.

Ben's big brother Joe sees wagging tails and love, love, love.

When Ben looks at a dog, he sees jaws and teeth.

And when a new family's moving van pulls up across the street, Ben sees a girl about his age. She does perfect cartwheels. Ben is thinking he wants to go over and play with her. But the last thing out of van gives him pause.

A big dog. Big jaws. Big teeth.

But when the girl, her mom and her dog Max come over, he likes Erv, short for Minerva. Max scares Ben's cat, and Ben doesn't like Erv's dog, although at least he's on a leash. But when Erv invites Ben over to her new house, he doesn't want to go.

"It's the dog, right?" said Robin.

"He won't be on a leash in his house," Ben admits.

But when Ben, bolstered by Robin's pep talk, ventures over to Minerva's house, he is surprised to see big, hulking Max sitting scrunched pitifully on a tiny bath rug.

"It's the shiny floors," says Erv. "Max is scared of them."

Ben is blown away. A big dog with big teeth is afraid of a shiny floor?

And when Erv is called away to talk to her grandmother online, Ben is left all alone with a big dog--Max the scaredy dog.

Ben tries to show no fear and definitely not look Max. He tries to think positive thoughts like Robin had said. And then he hears something.


Max is walking on the shiny floor. He's walking toward Ben. Ben knows not to look a dog in the eyes and not to run. He huddles in a tight ball and starts humming "Happy Birthday."

And what's this? Max is sitting down and leaning against him for comfort?

"You must have a way with dogs," Erv's mom says.

And Ben has a new way of looking at dogs and himself, in Sarah Ellis's third book about Ben, Ben and the Scaredy-Dog (Pajama Press, 2018). Dogs can have fears, he can be brave, and and knowing that means it's a brave new world for Ben. Author Ellis' narration builds tension skillfully as her hero becomes Brave Ben, with a humorous surprise ending for him and young readers, and Kim La Fave's softly illustrated artwork adds a lot of insight into Ben's (and Max's) fears. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Another successful outing in a winning series, with lots of room for more adventures for Ben and his new friends Erv and Max."

Other books in this series include Ben Says Goodbye, Big Ben, and Ben Over Night by Sarah Ellis. (2005-10-11)

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