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Children's Fiction Depression & Mental Illness

Waking Ben Doldrums

by (author) Heather Smith

illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Mar 2023
Depression & Mental Illness, Alternative Family, Friendship
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 6 to 8
  • Grade: 1 to 3
  • Reading age: 6 to 8


“Ben Doldrums, are you sad? Are you mad? Are you confused?"

Frida Bellows lives in a big house made up of four apartments. Every morning, she gets on her father’s shoulders and taps on the ceiling with a broomstick. This wakes her neighbor, a student named Ben Doldrums who knocks on the wall to wake the Mercredis, who in turn knock on the floor to wake the Reynolds. Frida likes this morning tradition. It makes her feel like she’s part of something big. Things change, however, when Ben stops getting out of bed to wake the Mercredis, which throws off the whole routine. Frida notices that Ben Doldrums is not himself and she wants to help. But how?

Waking Ben Doldrums is a story of community, compassion and hope. It is a reminder that, while we can’t always fix another person’s problems, a simple act of kindness can go a long way.

About the authors

Heather Smith's profile page

Byron Eggenschwiler is an award-winning illustrator whose recent books include The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt by Riel Nason, Operatic by Kyo Maclear (starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal and Quill & Quire), Coyote Tales by Thomas King and Beastly Puzzles by Rachel Poliquin (starred review from School Library Journal). Byron’s work has also appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Walrus, GQ and O, The Oprah Magazine. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Byron Eggenschwiler's profile page


  • Short-listed, International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Canada Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award
  • Commended, Ontario Library association (OLA) Best Bets
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens, starred selection

Editorial Reviews

“A charming little community...The illustrative format of depicting the various apartments and people with details that demonstrate their diversity draws the eye.”

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

“The hopeful tone and compassion the diverse group of neighbors show for one another will resonate with young readers...A highly recommended title.”

School Library Connection

“Smith creates a microcosmic metaphor for supporting someone with depression…A sensitive and socially conscious take on mental health.”

Kirkus Reviews

“An interesting literary introduction to depression and mental health issues for children.”

Canadian Children's Book News

“Eggenschwiler’s gently playful illustrations are a perfect complement to Smith’s story.”

The Globe and Mail

“The text does not use the word depression, but the situation is implied. The story...[opens] a dialogue for readers rather than providing a solution.”


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