Ben’s Magic Telescope

This book tells the story of Ben, who lives on the nineteenth floor of a tower block in an unattractive and heavily industrialised city. The book opens by presenting Ben’s view from the balcony of his apartment. The reader can see both the boy and the surrounding industrial buildings. The colours used are dull and almost monochromatic, mirroring the boy’s boredom with his world. Then, on the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month of the ninth year of his life, Ben finds a powerful silver telescope on the ninth floor of his apartment block. The once-familiar world of places such as the market and the allotment are transformed when viewed through its lens. Images presented through the telescope are alive with colour and detail and are superimposed ingeniously on the main illustrations by placing lens-shaped pictures over the background landscape. The magical nature of the telescope allows the boy to view not only his city but also worlds far away, such as polar regions and even the craters on the moon.

One of the most unusual features of this book is that it is told in a mixture of narrative, verse and two different picture styles, all of which add to its magic. The poetry has a lyrical quality and is largely employed to describe the images seen through the telescope while the prose narrative is used to describe the boy’s feelings, thoughts and actions. The poetry and illustrations are synchronised to perfection and the descriptions are quite simply beautiful in their evocations:
He saw a dragonfly on a pond
With cathedral windows for each wing.
He saw the red tongue of a wren
When it opened up its beak to sing

This book shows how perception can literally change one’s view of the world and how the ordinary can become extraordinary once the observer looks beyond immediate appearance. The book employs the device of magnification to play with proportion and perspective. Areal treasure. For the more discerning reader of 8 upwards.