by Roger Zotti
“I’d love for the readers to listen to what my characters have to say,” said Branford’s Marilyn Clements, author of “Benson’s Race” (Lumina Kids), a delightful children’s book, superlatively illustrated by Andrea Farr. “There are important lessons to be learned in it, such as be responsible, work hard for what you want, nothing in life is free – you have to earn it, never judge others, and never stop reaching for your dreams.”
What prompted Marilyn to write “Benson’s Race” was her love for animals, “especially dogs, which was strengthened by my Siberian husky named Benson.” Marilyn continued, “Benson had a gentle and embracing personality and warmed my heart. When I spoke to him, he knew what I was saying. My love for him went far beyond the master-dog relationship. He was my family and Benson died after fourteen years of inspiration.” Every time Benson looked at Marilyn, “I tried to imagine what he was thinking.” One day, near the end of Benson’s life, Marilyn watched him sleeping and noticed his legs moving: “It was as if he were running in his dreams. I thought about what his life would have been like if he weren’t mine but, instead, an Iditarod dog. That’s when I came up with the idea for “Benson’s Race.”
The book “is an adventurous story about racing through the Alaskan wilderness,” Marilyn explained. “It’s about friendship, heroism, beating the odds. It’s a touching, action-packed story teaching us lessons that we all must learn.” Though recommended for children in grades four through six, Marilyn discovered that “younger audiences love it too.” Actually anyone can enjoy it.
In writing “Benson’s Race,” the biggest obstacle for Marilyn was finding time “to write it.” One remedy, she discovered, was her tape recorder. For instance, if she were driving somewhere, and an idea popped into her mind, there beside her, at the ready, was the recorder into which she’d narrate her thoughts – “so they wouldn’t escape me.”
“Benson’s Race” opens with a description of the “bright-eyed Siberian husky puppy” named Benson. We learn he’s six months old and “His eyes were as blue and clear as a September sky. His fluffy triangular little ears framed a black, white, and grey-masked face, a trait of huskies….his tail curled around twice. He was gentle and smart…” Enter the book’s villain, the “nasty” Zelda, “the evil musher.” Last year Zelda’s dogs won the Iditarod and she’s determined to win this year’s – at any cost. So she dognaps Rosie, the second lead (Benson is the first), because the other dogs, she says, “…will not have the strength to win. They need the entire team to pull the sled if they are to win…” Benson sets out to rescue Rosie. Is he successful? And if he is, who helps him and what happens to Zelda? You don’t have to be a kid or an animal lover to be enthralled by the pitch-perfect, immediately rewarding, and skillfully written “Benson’s Race.”
Marilyn Clements will do a signing July 18 at Bank Square Books, Mystic, where the book is available. “Benson’s Race” is also offered at www.llumina.com/store/bensonsrace.htm, amazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com.