Waking Ben Doldrums

  • Illustrated By: Byron Eggenschwiler
  • Pages:32
  • Publisher:Orca Book Publishers
  • Themes:depression in youth, mental health, community, compassion, neighbors as family
  • Available:03/14/2023
  • Lexile:570L
  • Fountas & Pinnell Text Level Gradient:P
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“Ben Doldrums, are you sad? Are you mad? Are you confused?"

Frida Bellows lives in a big house made up of four apartments. Every morning, she gets on her father’s shoulders and taps on the ceiling with a broomstick. This wakes her neighbor, a student named Ben Doldrums who knocks on the wall to wake the Mercredis, who in turn knock on the floor to wake the Reynolds. Frida likes this morning tradition. It makes her feel like she’s part of something big. Things change, however, when Ben stops getting out of bed to wake the Mercredis, which throws off the whole routine. Frida notices that Ben Doldrums is not himself and she wants to help. But how?

Waking Ben Doldrums is a story of community, compassion and hope. It is a reminder that, while we can’t always fix another person’s problems, a simple act of kindness can go a long way.

“Smith creates a microcosmic metaphor for supporting someone with depression…A sensitive and socially conscious take on mental health.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“The text does not use the word depression, but the situation is implied. The story...[opens] a dialogue for readers rather than providing a solution.”
– Booklist
“Eggenschwiler’s gently playful illustrations are a perfect complement to Smith’s story.”
– The Globe and Mail
“The hopeful tone and compassion the diverse group of neighbors show for one another will resonate with young readers...A highly recommended title.”
– School Library Connection
“A charming little community...The illustrative format of depicting the various apartments and people with details that demonstrate their diversity draws the eye.”
– CM: Canadian Review of Materials

“An interesting literary introduction to depression and mental health issues for children.”

– Canadian Children's Book News
CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens, starred selection   | 2023  |  Commended
Ontario Library association (OLA) Best Bets   | 2023  |  Commended
International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Canada Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award   | 2023  |  Short-listed
International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities   | 2025  |  Short-listed

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