Has Anyone Seen Benson? by Joanne Kingston & Glenda Northey
This is the epic tale of the sheep that got away, Benson himself. It’s a collective piece of work on the escapades of the rambunctious ram around the area of Piha during the COVID lockdown. The virus acts as a kind of character in and of itself in the story, providing the opportunity for Benson’s daring adventure.
Children will love the opportunistic Benson as he searches for greener pastures around the local (and not so local) area to the bemusement and (often) amazement of all. From hills to dales, sunshine and hail, adventures to tails, this maverick saw it all and it seemed did all he could to evade capture - even from the local law enforcement.
The story stems from a Facebook initiative where locals in Piha tracked the progress of the wee mite drawing on the strength and can-do attitude of the community to monitor him. Indeed, the Facebook page Has Anyone Seen Benson? shows the progression of the development of the book which is great as it makes the whole process more tangible and a Behind the Scenes sort of connection.
It’s a great use of the interrobang also, the exclamation point next to the question mark, as the concern for this renegade ram is palpable throughout the story. As a New Zealand text it covers all the expected inclusion of te reo, local figures and the strong community spirit, certainly all the elements for a story to have in the classroom, or on the home book shelf.
There’s something really magical about having a story that captures the essence of whanaungatanga or family feel. In the story of Benson, the bringing together of the people and the local animals in support of bringing him home will move you and entertain you.
Praise must also go to Lyn Kriegler for the illustrations. In these images she captures the pioneering spirit of the runaway ram.
Has Anyone Seen Benson? Ticks all the boxes for a classic kiwi yarn. The type of which we need more. That’ll do, Benson, that’ll do.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
Piha Press, RRP $25