Also available as an ebook
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness
This picture book for primary aged children tells the story of Benjamin Brewster, a young boy in the first years of school. Instead of school being a safe haven of joy and wonder, it’s become a prison, as Benjamin is bullied by older children.
Capturing the sadness and the powerlessness of being bullied, illustrator Anthony Ishinjerro has used the persona of a faceless child (other bullied children might see themselves here) wrapped in a sepia world. It is filled with shadows and the reader looks through a kind of lens at Benjamin’s alienated childhood.
‘Each morning he would count the nine hundred and seventy-two steps that it took him to reach his school.’
But it was hopeless. All Benjamin saw were hovering, ominous figures, barred gates and pointing fingers, so he skips school and hides beneath the shelter of a tree. As he sits and worries and thinks, a field of dandelions sprouts around him. As all children do, Benjamin picks one and makes a wish as he blows the feathery seeds that parachute into the wind.
The dandelion seeds are a metaphor for the bullies (and perhaps his worries) as he blows them away.
The reality is that the bullies are still there. Benjamin calls on the namesake of the flower as dandelion means lion’s tooth, and he begins to let his roaring voice be heard. This, along with imagining the bullies being blown away, helps Benjamin to cope. He finds that if he uses his imagination, he begins to have control over the situation.
On the last page, Benjamin lifts his head to the light; his face is aglow as he looks into the future. Told mostly in rhyme, this poignant story will give many parents and teachers the opportunity to discuss bullying with their children. School Education Minister Peter Garrett said in November last year, ‘One in five students has experienced some form of cyber bullying. This means every family either has a child, or knows one, who is being bullied at school.’
As author Galvin Scott Davis says in his epilogue, he created a story ‘that could transport children and adults to a world where creativity is embraced to solve problems.’