While Benjamin waits for his father to pick him up from school, he doesn’t hear the screams of the kids playing dodge ball on the playground. The only thing he hears is, “a word. The word.” Earlier that day, Benjamin beat his friend James while playing handball, and James retaliated by calling Benjamin “the word.”
With soft, watercolor illustrations that complement the text, Benjamin and the Word / Benjamín y la palabra is a compelling look at name-calling and intolerance. When confronted with James’ epithet, Benjamin and the reader set off on a poignant journey to understanding and forgiveness. Exploring tough issues of bigotry, racial dualities, and cultural difference, Benjamin, James, and the reader will never be the same after bigotry on the playground.
Originally published as a five-part series in the Los Angeles Times’ Kids’ Reading Room section, Olivas’ book has already won acclaim from readers and even received a letter of praise from the Anti-Defamation League. A perfect discussion-starter both in the classroom and at home, Benjamin and his struggle will enrich the way that readers ages 4 to 8 think about diversity and tolerance.