August 29, 2016
What a lovely story. I love the name Benjamin Brody, I love the idea of his Backyard Bag (and all that wonderful alliteration!), and I love the book’s themes of encouraging imagination and addressing homelessness with children in an age appropriate, meaningful way.
I think because of my background working in mental health, I talk to my kids about homelessness more frequently than a lot of parents might. And sometimes I feel guilty, because my son, Jack, now 10 years old and quite sensitive, can really get down about it. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean I should deny this social reality and, in fact, he already witnesses it for himself to some extent every time we pass people with signs asking for help. What I try to impress upon him are all the different reasons people may be homeless, that it may be chronic but is often temporary, that there are services available to support homeless people, and what we can do to help.
Likewise, in Benjamin Brody’s Backyard Bag, Benjamin’s mother encourages him to speak with a homeless woman, and use his imagination—and his bag—both to play and to help.
I read this book with Jack and, predictably, he declared it “sad.” But as we talked more about it, my husband joined in, and we now have firm plans to become involved in a new local Habitat For Humanity project. Jack was amazed both by the concept of Habitat For Humanity, and that he himself—the kid loves to swing a hammer, sweep a floor, carry 2x4s, you name it—could participate. His sadness turned to enthusiasm and empowerment. What a gift- for him, for me, for people who need some help, and will surely pay it forward.
Not every children’s book needs to deliver such an intense message. But some should, and Benjamin Brody’s Backyard Bag does it beautifully.