cover image Who Is Ben?

Who Is Ben?

Charlotte Zolotow. HarperCollins, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027351-4

Staring out of his bedroom window one inky night, Ben has an epiphany. Feeling at one with ""the blackness itself,/ smooth and velvety and dark and safe,"" he discovers his own reassuring answer to two of life's most compelling questions: ""Where was I before I was born?"" and ""Where will I be when I die?"" First-time illustrator Jacobi interprets this internal drama by manipulating the play of light and dark inherent in Ben's musings--for example, she illuminates Ben's upturned face against the vast night sky. By alternating such images with warm interior shots (e.g., Ben's cozy, familiar bedroom, Ben snuggling with his mother), she further amplifies the book's comforting mood. Although Zolotow's poetic, thought-provoking text (""He felt that lovely soft enfolding blackness.../ no beginning/ no end/ he was it/ and it was Ben"") won't be every reader's cup of tea, and some adults may object to its strictly humanist message, the questions it raises are universal, and the book could serve as a starting place for helping a child find his or her own answers. Ages 5-up. (May)