Ben and Me Critical Context - Essay

Robert Lawson

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Ben and Me remained in print well into its second half-century, testifying to its enduring popularity. It has continued to find a place in schools as secondary reading and has been translated into the medium of animation as a successful feature film. An illustrator since the 1910’s, Robert Lawson achieved wide recognition in 1936 when he illustrated the famous story of Ferdinand the bull in the version told by Munro Leaf.

In 1940, Lawson portrayed the history of his own family in They Were Strong and Good, a work that was primarily illustration, with only a few words of narrative; it was awarded the Caldecott Medal. Rabbit Hill (1944), his book for younger readers, is the story of Little Georgie, a young rabbit, and his adventures with the “new folks”; it won the Newbery Medal in 1945. After Ben and Me, Lawson wrote other animal-narrated historical biographies, including I Discover Columbus (1941) and Mr. Revere and I (1953), which have, respectively, a parrot and a horse as the animal characters. A prolific author of children’s stories and a brilliant illustrator, Lawson was one of the major figures in children’s literature for many decades. Ben and Me continues to be one of his most popular and most endearing works.