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A PERFECT FRIEND by Reynolds Price


by Reynolds Price

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-689-83029-7
Publisher: Atheneum

In this dreamy, allusive tale from a distinguished writer for adults, grief loses its clutches on a boy’s heart thanks to time, loyal friends, and a healing encounter with a circus elephant. The strong affinity for elephants Ben shared with his mother has, if anything, intensified in the year since her death. The news that a circus is coming to town throws him into a fever of excitement, though being a reserved, inward sort, he shows it largely by snubbing his friends Dunk and Robin, feeling that sharing the performance risks spoiling it. The small circus arrives at last, with one elephant: Sala, the sad sole survivor of a quartet that, Ben learns, was poisoned recently by a cruel trainer. Ben talks his way into Sala’s private tent and has an epiphany when she picks him up with her trunk and sets him on her back. Price is less a storyteller here than a studier of character, and much of what does happen has a mystical air or is freighted with an indistinct significance. Ben treats Dunk and Robin so badly—even his kind, grieving father accuses him of being coldhearted—that readers won’t always like him, but since he’s so obviously in pain they may forgive him, and applaud his friends for sticking with him. Still, most children will labor to finish this. (Fiction. 11-13)