Benji, the Bad Day, and Me
By Shelf Awareness
Sally J. Pla's straightforward, accessible text gives background in Sammy's voice: he wants to learn karate but karate classes are on the same day as Benji's clinic appointments; when Benji is overwrought, Sammy and Mama will wrap him in his big blue blanket. Sammy's not mad at Benji for getting special attention, he's only feeling bad for himself. When he spills milk, he loses it, crying "mad-sad shivery tears. No one notices," he thinks. But he's wrong--Benji is watching from his box. In moments, Benji is spreading the big blue blanket on the floor. He grabs Sammy by the hand and pulls him down onto the "fuzzy blueness" then rolls him "over and over" until Sammy is cozy and warm. Pla's story of sibling love makes Benji's autism known without ever making it the focus; Benji is about bad days, empathy and familial relationships. This tale came from Pla's own life, in which her "autistic and non-autistic sons... had fuzzy blankets" and often asked to be "wrapped tight into burritos" with them. Ken Min's acrylic and colored pencil illustrations fit the spirit of the tale perfectly, depicting a cozy, three-person family on full-page spreads saturated with colors that get brighter with Sammy's mood. Benji is wholly heartwarming.