* Tryouts for Ben

What a book!  Just when you thought that there were no more “funny, poignant, good-for-kid-and-adults books,” Jean Cogdell gives us “Tryouts for Ben.”  Think ‘Wimpy Kid’ with the perspective of the Hank Zipzer books.  With terrific illustrations.

Tryouts for Ben” is a classic.  The story features a Ben, probably a 2nd or 3rd grader, who plans to spend his summer playing video games, watching TV, and draping himself over a swing.  Does that remind you of any kids you know?  But Ben’s parents have other plans for his summer.  How that plays out (pun intended) is a hilarious series of tryouts in sports from hockey to baseball.  One of my favorite scenes is when Ben loses the bat as he swings.  Been there, seen that!

What gives this book great appeal to me is its value for special needs kids.  I could use this in social skills instruction, especially for high functioning kids on the autism spectrum.  Good literature provides a lateral entry for dealing with touchy topics, including restricted interests, little interest/success in team sports, and weak athletic skills.  This books deals realistically with failure while demonstrating the importance of humor and perseverance.  Ben’s summer was no walk in the park, but the moral rings true.  I’d also like this book for dyslexic readers who face comparable struggles in the classroom.  They wouldn’t be intimidated by the book’s illustrations if you wanted them to use drawings instead of words for summarizing or responding to comprehension questions.  Tryouts for Ben is a great read-aloud with a reading level of about 3rd to 4th grade (estimated 650 lexile level).   Thanks, Jean, for a winner!

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