The Birthday Room

by Kevin Henkes

Twelve-year-old Ben doesn’t remember the accident in which he lost his little... read more

Twelve-year-old Ben doesn’t remember the accident in which he lost his little finger when he was a small child. Nor does he remember the uncle, Ian, who was babysitting at the time. The accident led to a family rift that was never resolved. So Ben is happy to receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Uncle Ian’s house for his 12th birthda. In fact, it makes him much happier than he is with his parents’ special gift to him: a special room he can use as an art studio. The guilt Ben feels about his parent’s gift is no match for the guilt Ben’s mom and uncle both feel about the accident, but it’s at least an opening to understanding for Ben. This understanding has a chance to grow as he observes the complicated sibling relationship between his mom and Uncle Ian, and when something he does unwittingly contributes to the injury of a neighbor child. Henkes subtly uses action and symbolism to unfold the story and show Ben’s growth. In Ben’s world, one must learn to listen to what people don’t say t know what they mean. Honor Book, CCBC Newbery Discussion (Ages 9-13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2000

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