CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 3 . . . .September 28, 2007
Similar to Wakeman's and van Stralen's first wordless picturebook about Ben, Ben's Big Dig, the narrative of this sequel also begins on the initial endpapers. Readers view a cityscape, void of green space and human presence, except for Ben peering through a window of his residence in the bottom left-hand corner. His two pet rabbits sit in a box on the balcony. On the recto of the endpapers, a space shuttle, silhouetted by the moon, is visible in the distance. The first opening of the wordless picturebook has seven panels that vary in size and shape. Ben is star gazing with his telescope, his mother, through a thought-like bubble, is telling Ben that it is bed time, and three other thought-like bubbles communicate the rabbits' desire to travel via a space shuttle to a green planet. Ben gets ready for and goes to bed, but, once his mother is asleep, he prepares for his departure. He packs some food, leaves his mother a map indicating his destination, and with his two rabbits in his backpack and his faithful stuffed monkey in the carrier basket on his bicycle, Ben cycles to the space shuttle. He encounters no other humans on his journey and easily accesses the shuttle. Conveniently, the shuttle contains a space suit that fits Ben perfectly and two rabbit space suits for his burrowing mammal friends.
Ben blasts off into space and lands on maroon-pinkish coloured planet that is home to giant snails. He captures a photograph of the local inhabitants, seeks directions to the green planet, and departs, with one of the aliens joining him on board the shuttle. In the upper right hand corner of the sixth opening, a superimposed panel on this double-page spread depicts Ben's mother, distraught at discovering his map and his absence! The next stop is a planet where the inhabitants live underwater. Similar to his first intergalactic visitation, Ben takes a photograph, asks for directions to his destination and invites one of the local inhabitants aboard the ship. After three more stops at other planets where he encounters unique environments, landscapes and aliens, Ben arrives at his destination. However, the bunnies have been multiplying in the shuttle as he has been searching for a better home for them. The green planet is a utopia for the rabbits as giant carrots grow in the lush and fertile soil. Ben bids farewell to all of the bunnies and retraces his route home, landing on each planet to return the alien who had joined him on his journey. Ben arrives safely back on Earth and returns home to a warm welcome from his mother.
The imprint page with the copyright and publication information also depicts five photographs taken by Ben on his journey. The final endpapers are identical to the beginning endpapers except that Ben is not peering through the window and the box on the balcony is empty.
Sylvia Pantaleo is a language arts professor in the Faculty of Education, the University of Victoria.
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