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North to Benjamin

2.99  ·  Rating details ·  100 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Freezing temperatures. Cracking ice. Ferocious wolves.

Eleven-year-old Edgar is willing to face them all to stop his mother from upturning their lives once again -- not this time, not this town. He's finally made a friend; he's finally found a teacher who understands him; and then there's Benjamin, an old dog who understands Edgar better than anyone.

But Edgar's mother's pat
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published December 4th 2018 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
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Average rating 2.99  · 
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Canadian Reader
Initially, I admired this novel for older children and young adults because it dared to go places that few kids’ books do. The sympathetic protagonist, Edgar, appears to be a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. His mother, Stephanie, is mess. She works unskilled jobs (bartending and waitressing), drinks too much, lies, sponges off others, and can’t manage very long without a man—sometimes any man will do. As the novel opens, she and Edgar are fleeing the Toronto home of her latest boyfriend, Roge ...more
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, mid-grade
To tell the truth, I picked up this book because the dog on the cover is enormous just like mine. I figured I could handle a sweet little story about the friendship between a boy and his canine companion, and that's what I thought this book would be. I was severely mistaken. It delves deep into the heart and mind of Edgar (a tween whose precise age is unknown to him) as he is forced once again to cope with the incomprehensible actions of "old people" like his mother. His struggle against acknowl ...more
May 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. I fell in love with the cover and was intrigued by the descriptions of the story. I was ready for a Yukon adventure that I could recommend to students. What I got was...well, I’m not really sure. First, the intended audience is middle-grade students, but it reads more like a YA book with all the discussion of the protagonist’s mother’s sexual exploits. Second, only the last chunk of the story actually involves any Yukon adventure (and even then, the adventure w ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: juvenile
This was an odd book. It’s recommended for ages 10-14, but I would say it’s more young adult. The main character is 11 and the overarching theme is his struggle to deal with his mother’s sexual trysts. He loses his ability to communicate with people through spoken word and instead is only able to bark and communicate with dogs 🙄. It was bizarre. That being said, I can’t think of one person, let alone kid, I would recommend it to.
I wanted to like this book, but at 40% I had to stop. It is supposed to be middle grade, if I am correct, but it feels more YA with some of the subject matter. The boy is in fourth grade, so I feel like the talk of sex in the story is misplaced. I am well aware that some kids have a life like his, but I would not feel comfortable booktalking this. All of that being said, it was too slow, and I am not sure what kid this book would appeal to...that made it hard for me want to finish it. I am bumme ...more
Melinda Brasher
Sep 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a hard book to rate. Reading as an adult, I enjoyed it overall.

The writing is sometimes beautiful, the voice an odd but compelling mix of literary and naïve…which makes sense for our shy, contemplative boy who has often had to be the adult to an irresponsible mother but who shies away from seeing certain aspects of the world for what they are. It did get a little too poetic for me at times, and a little repetitive.

The story is unique and sometimes surreal, giving it a touch of magical r
I wanted so much more from this book. The last 15% or so was the Yukon adventure that I had been hoping for (and sold on) from the description, but the rest was hard for me to reconcile with that type of adventure story. Up until then, much of the writing has a dreamy, magical-realism quality to it that would be at home in general literature studies, but is going to be a hard sell for a typical middle grade reader, especially one who wants to get a story about surviving in the Yukon wilderness w ...more
Logan Norton
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: trimester-1
In this book, Edgar moves to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory with his mom and there he meets Benjamin the dog, and they become good friends.
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful story, beautifully written. Thinking as a librarian one would have to read this book to know the right kid to recommend it to. Adults though, and parents should definitely read this book. Your kids see you for who you are, and are impacted by the choices you make.
Donna Dobihal Smith
Although this is a well-written book, with interesting, complex characters and relationships, a palpable setting, and a myriad of issues to discuss, I am unsure into which child's hands to put it. The sexual references and innuendos will probably go over most heads of the targeted audience and, if so, much of the story won't make sense. So, I think this is a tough sell. It moves slowly until the end, so again, a tough sell to the majority of kids looking for fast-paced, relatable read. What I di ...more
Candice Lally
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kids-book-list
A book I really didn’t enjoy reading. I finished it though, hoping maybe it would turn around and I would get to the end and it would all make sense. It didn’t. I still didn’t like it. I even told my husband how much I was not liking this book as I read it. I hate giving bad reviews but I just didn’t get this. The cover is beautiful though!
Full Review:
Leslie Archer
Feb 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Edgar and his mother have escaped yet another of her hapless love affairs to house sit in the wilderness mining town of Dawson. With the house comes Benjamin, an old farting Newfoundland, and friendly neighbors, Carolyn with her father Ceese, another disastrous love affair waiting to happen. Edgar develops a symbiotic connection to Benjamin, so strong that he himself ends up communicating only in woofs and scents.
Alan Cumyn is known for his bizarre plot twists. This one is grounded in the very r
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-books-40
I loved this haunting and thought-provoking book. I usually don't review books online but decided to review this one because so many others did not like it.

During COVID-19 virtual schooling, I have been reading books with my middle-school grandson and assigning him short essays (old English teachers never really retire....) His parents chose North to Benjamin and it DOES touch on some sensitive topics: alcoholism, family instability, sexuality. I agree that these topics are more often found in Y
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a hard book to review. The first 1/3 had me hooked. It reminded me of The Great Alone but for a younger audience. Then it takes a weird turn but I was still ok until the confusing and sudden end.
I wish the author had just stuck to the story of the mom and her son trying to start new in such an interesting setting.
The beginning was so good, wish I could have rated it higher.
Also, there is quite a lot of sex and sexual overtones in this book. It is definitely more YA and I’m glad I didn’t re
Jan 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Eleven year old Edgar is used to moving from school to school. When he finds out he and his mom will be moving to northwest Canada and he will be taking care of a dog he is encouraged but still not very hopeful. As his moms true side is revealed once again he turns to the dog Benjamin as a safe place to air his emotions. Soon all Edgar can do is bark like a dog. This further complicates his relationships with his mom, teacher, and neighbourhood friend and leads him to try a dangerous escape. Thi ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I just had to read this because it's set in Dawson City and features the writings of Jack London and Robert Service, both highly inspired by the Klondike gold rush. I'm glad I read it. Edgar is a creative but lonely tween that is ignored and oppressed by his alcoholic flighty selfish mother who spends her time going from town to town and man to man. There is nothing explicit in this book but Edgar does have to deal with the adults in his life and how they act. This is a great opportunity to intr ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Weirdly interesting. I couldn't stop reading, but I also don't know that it would be a good fit for most middle school readers. It was incredibly uncomfortable at times-- the writing was almost too honest. Edgar's observations and having to deal with adult situations just made me feel unsure about this in the hands of a 6th or 7th grade reader.
Robin Kirk
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
A wonderfully moving and strange tale. Cumyn handles the fantastical elements so well, right at the level of his readers. The adults, with the exception of one teacher and the stepmother of one friend, come across as suitably awful. The relationship with the Newfoundland at the center of the tale is charming.
Jillian Anderson
Jun 26, 2020 rated it did not like it
I read this one on the beach. About 150 pages into it the tide rolled in and waterlogged the book. By the time I finished the book, I wish the tide had taken it. Such an odd book. No way I can recommend this to students in my school. I plan to remove my library copy and maybe donate to the high school🤷🏼‍♀️
Tyler Deren
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
This novel had a lot of potential with an interesting premise. Unfortunately, it fails to find a voice until the final chapters.

Honestly, if it wasn't for the exciting and gripping final chapters, I would have rated this one a 1 or a 2.

Also a note: the Goodreads plot synopsis says this takes place in Alaska. This book actually takes place in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada.
Jolene Elison
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like all things Alaska and I was drawn to this boy and the giant dog Benjamin...but the writing left too many loose ends. It could have been a great story...but felt flat.
Feb 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was okay. Rather weird at times.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book!
Aug 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: ala-2018
3 stars for this head scratcher
Jul 23, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2019-new
Stephanie Hooks
Apr 19, 2020 rated it liked it
I thought it was going to be an adventure story, but it’s not. Inappropriate content for a kids’ book, but unfortunately it does accurately describe what many kids go through.
Dec 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book but I just couldn’t. It took SO long for anything to actually happen that I thought I’d lose my mind. It was painful for me to read this. I’m sorry.
Henry Tennant
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
very weird and interesting
Ms. Yingling
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus
rated it really liked it
Jan 03, 2020
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