Big Ben

Publisher: Barn Owl Books

Review

Matthew and his classmates are set a project to share examples of individuals they admire for their contributions to the local community. For Matthew, it creates something of a dilemma. While he desperately wants to write about his older brother Ben, he is also anxious about people's possible reactions, since Ben has Down syndrome. He finds himself torn between wanting to share Ben's achievements and wanting to protect him from any unpleasantness.

Despite having been first published over ten years ago, Big Ben remains one of very few books featuring a character with Down syndrome. The depiction of disability is both effective and touching, focusing on the strength of the relationship between the two brothers, as opposed to the disability itself. The book also carries a vital message about the importance of developing independence. The book sees Ben leaving home for a new stage in his life, at a 16+ residential college, forming new friendships and moving towards a new role as a young adult in the community.

Artwork and text combine to create a really likeable and realistic character in Ben. Jane's images deftly indicate the physical characteristics of Down syndrome and this is reinforced by behavioural traits described in the story. This is done subtly and sensitively, to avoid resulting in a caricature.

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