Ben by Jack Townend

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V&A Publishing, 2015. ISBN 9781851778287
Jenny the jeep by Jack Townend
V&A Publishing, 2015. ISBN 9781851778294
(Age: junior primary) Recommended. Steamroller. Loneliness. War in England. Design. Ben the steamroller works well with his supervisor, Mr Dodie. He flattens the new roads in the town and works very hard. He is proud of the work that he does. Each night when he is shut away in his shed, tears fall as he is lonely there by himself. One day Mr Dodie tells him that he is to flatten the new road out of the town between this town and the next town, Wibsey. He is very excited.
On the road he works hard, but the same thing happens, at night, he is still alone.
One day he spies some smoke over the next hill, and is excited to find it belongs to the Wibsey steamroller, Matilda.
They are so happy to see each other that they decide to run off together and they do, finding a forest where they stay the night. But the next morning their supervisors find them and prepare to take them back. Ben is adamant that they will not work unless they are together, so a solution is found to their problem.
The second of the two Townend books, Jenny the jeep is set very firmly in wartime England, with pictures of jeeps and ship building, factories working hard, and many soldiers crossing the pages. Jenny is pink and stands out from the monochrome colours of the rest of the group, and attracts derision because of it. But her time comes around when she saves the day. After the war she is sold off and she ends her days as a useful part of society partly because of her colour.
Both stories are delightful and the illustrations will fascinate younger children as well as those interested in historical design.
Townend was an illustrator and art lecturer who published picture books in the 1940's. His books are held in the Victoria and Albert Museum and are republished here for a new generation of readers. The stories are delightful and the illustrations are charming, reflecting the style of the middle of the twentieth century. For those who wish to present a range of styles of story and illustration then these are perfect, and read on their own, will entreat new readers just as they did in 1944.
Fran Knight