Benjamin and the Word is a beautiful grade 1-3 picture book which delivers a powerful message about the issues of bigotry, race and difference.
Benjamin is on the playground playing when suddenly he hears “the word”. The book doesn’t tell you which word it was that hurt him so and bothered him so much and this absence just makes it that much more powerful. We don’t need to know the word to know that words hurt and that children can be cruel to each other.
In the story Benjamin is hurt and it shows. The word is eating at him and his father sees that something is bothering his child. He waits for Benjamin to tell him what transpired and once hearing the word, he skillfully teaches his son his own worth.
Mr. Olivas, who scared us with his Devil Talk, now takes us on a journey through childhood and the playground. He skillfully shows us how we learn racism and bigotry and how it can be unlearned; how children can be educated to be accepting and aware of the impact of their words.
Don Dyen, the illustrator has masterfully captured the essence of this simple, yet powerful punch of a story with soft watercolors that bring the quality of a dream to this rich and colorful book.
I encourage all parents to buy this book for your children and to be honest, maybe we all need to read it. It brought home some simple truths to me and made me reconsider some things I would have said without thought. Be careful of your words.