BEN'S DREAM by Chris Van Allsburg


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Do kids still (did they ever) bone up on ""great landmarks of the world?"" Well, Ben's teacher is going to give Ben and Margaret's class a test on same--but when Ben sits down to study, it begins to rain, he falls asleep. . . and dreams that his house floats past the ""great landmarks,"" now half-submerged, and, passing the Sphinx, he sees Margaret at the window of her floating house too. Then they find out they had the same dream. The notion allows for some of Van Allsburg's characteristic dramatic perspectives--except that, in this instance, they have no dramatic function--as we see the campanile of St. Mark's and Ben's house from the air, or the house floating through the ironwork of the Eiffel Tower, approaching the columns of the Parthenon, passing among the onion domes of St. Basil's in Moscow. None, as it happens, is anywhere identified, and some of the best-known might elude adults in this partial depiction (e.g., the understructure of the Eiffel Tower without a sign of Paris). Two bits are slightly humorous: the house barely clearing the Great Wall of China and, at the dose, Mount Rushmore's George Washington saying, ""Ben, wake up."" It turns out to be Margaret, at the window. For pictorial effects and visual imagination, Van Allsburg can't touch Mitsumasa Anno--and to pretend that these essentially banal pictures have deep meanings is flimflam (unless you really want to take Margaret and Ben and the water and the towers seriously). But some kids might enjoy the watery tour of the sights as such.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin