October 19, 2016

BEN

If there was ever a book to make you cry, it's Ben, written and illustrated by Miba and Josh Prigge. Of course, I wouldn't be talking about it here if it wasn't worth the cry. Ben is a picture book/graphic novel crossover that tells the story of an elderly man who finds a wounded bee and decides to nurse it back to health.


The book is unique in about a thousand ways. First of all, like I mentioned earlier, it's not a traditional picture book. It has a graphic novel feel to it, with multiple panes on each illustration, and generally speaking, any text is on its own spread. This book is actually bilingual, with the Korean translation on the verso (left) page and the English translation on the recto (right). The text pages are stark white, with only the minimal words to carry us through, but every moment of text is increased 10-fold by the illustrations. The illustrations are bright and full of color, but at the same time they're muted. It's a humble story with humble images to accompany it.


After a few spreads, we eventually come to learn that the narrator, Ben, is the bee, and this is his story. However, though the bee is the narrator, we still get very solid glimpses into the old man's psyche: we witness him wake up from a dream where he feels like he's drowning, and we see him soaring through the sky with a little boy. Although there's nothing in the text to indicate that this man has suffered a great loss, the illustrations tell us everything we need to know. There's an author's note in the back to clarify that the man lost his son and blames himself, but it's not even necessary--that feeling of loss jumps right off the page, both through his dreams and the way he cares for Ben.


There are so many layers to this story. If you're able to get your hands on a copy, you won't regret it. You can definitely find it on Amazon, but I recommend visiting their site at larvmib.com to see how you can find it locally.