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Orca SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) RESPECT through July 2023

Waking Ben Doldrums
By (author): Heather Smith Illustrated by: Byron Eggenschwiler
Heather Smith ,

Illustrated by :

Byron Eggenschwiler


Orca Book Publishers - Victoria



Product Form:


Form detail:

Picture book, Sewn, Laminated cover
Hardcover , Picture book, Sewn, Laminated cover


Juvenile: Age (years) 6 - 8, Grade (CAN) 1 - 3, Grade (US) 1 - 3, Reading age 6 - 8
Mar 14, 2023
Print Run: 8000
$21.95 CAD


10.75in x 8.75 x 0.31 in | 400 gr

Page Count:

32 pages


17 Colour illustrations
FSC certified – mixed sources C016245
Orca Book Publishers
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Depression & Mental Illness
Children’s / Teenage fiction: Family and home stories|Children’s picture books|Children’s / Teenage personal and social topics: Friends and friendships|Children’s / Teenage personal and social topics: Anxiety, depression and self-harm|Interest age: from c 6 years
North America
  • Short Description
Neighbors come together to support a university student experiencing depression in this illustrated picture book about the power of community and kindness.
Ben Doldrums doesn’t know what he’s feeling. He’s just…tired.

“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.

Key Selling Points

  • A gentle introduction to depression and mental health for young readers.
  • Addresses the reality of mental health challenges experienced by university students.
  • Demonstrates neighbors coming together as a community to support each other.
  • Quirky illustrations feature cutaways of the apartment building and neighborhood.
  • The story's setting was inspired by the Warner Estate in Walthomstow, England, where homes were split into four flats and the walls were so thin the occupants created a morning alarm system by knocking on the walls.

Heather Smith is the author of several picture books, including the award-winning The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden. Her middle-grade novel Ebb and Flow was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award, and her YA novel The Agony of Bun O'Keefe won the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award, the OLA Forest of Reading White Pine Award and was shortlisted for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award and the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. Originally from Newfoundland, Heather now lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her family.

Contributor Website

Byron Eggenschwiler is an award-winning illustrator whose recent books include Song for the Snow, The Strangest Thing in the Sea, The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt and Operatic. Byron's work has also appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Walrus and GQ. He lives in Calgary.

Contributor Website

Marketing and Promotional Plans

  • Print and online advertising campaigns
  • Promotion at national and regional school, library and trade conferences
  • Extensive ARC distribution, including NetGalley
  • Blog and social media promotion
  • Outreach in Orca newsletters

“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

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