A Perfect Friend

By Reynolds Price; Maurice Sendak (Illustrator)
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Hardcover, 9780689830297, 168pp.)

Publication Date: September 2000

List Price: $19.99*
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It feels like yesterday that Ben's mother died -- but it's really been a whole year. Still, he misses her so much the sadness keeps him awake at night. Lying in the dark, the only thing that helps Ben sleep is to think about elephants, those magnificent creatures that his mother loved too. Sooner or later, the thought of their awesome grace always calms him in a way that his sad father, and his two closest friends, never can.
Though Ben feels a particular connection to elephants, just as his mother did, he has only once seen a real one -- at a circus when he was very young. So when word spreads of a small one-ring circus coming to town, Ben anxiously awaits its arrival. His anticipation is more than satisfied when he gets to meet Sala -- whose name means "Sacred Tree" -- the sole survivor of a group of four elephants poisoned by a wicked trainer. With his unusual ability to understand the thoughts of animals, Ben and Sala emerge from the depths of their grief to forge a bond that brings them both comfort and gives Ben renewed hope to face the future.
In his first book for young readers, distinguished author Reynolds Price weaves a powerful story that explores the inevitable and essential balance between joy and sorrow and the fine line between the things most exhilarating and frightening in life.

About the Author
Reynolds Price (1933-2011) was born in Macon, North Carolina. Educated at Duke University and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Merton College, Oxford University, he taught at Duke beginning in 1958 and was the James B. Duke Professor of English at the time of his death. His first short stories, and many later ones, are published in his "Collected Stories". "A Long and Happy Life" was published in 1962 and won the William Faulkner Award for a best first novel. "Kate Vaiden" was published in 1986 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. "The Good Priest's Son" in 2005 was his fourteenth novel. Among his thirty-seven volumes are further collections of fiction, poetry, plays, essays, and translations. Price is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his work has been translated into seventeen languages.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) was the author and illustrator of such classic children's books as "Where the Wild Things Are" and "In the Night Kitchen". Widely considered one of the most innovative creators of children's literature, he received honors including the Caldecott Medal, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the National Medal of Arts. Sendak was born in Brooklyn in 1928 and died in Connecticut in 2012.
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