Ben and Zip

Written by Joanne Linden
Illustrated by  Tom Goldsmith

Ben is short. Zip is shorter. One day while they are walking on the boardwalk, a sudden storm blows in. Frightened by the thunder, Zip disappears into the crowd.

Pint-sized Ben tries to search for Zip, but all he sees are knees! Right knees, left knees, knees with sandy patches. Fat knees, bony knees, knees with bumps and scratches. Ben finds a higher spot. Now all he sees are bellies! He climbs the highest lookout on the beach– the lifeguard stand – and sees that the rain has chased everyone from the beach! Now how will Ben find Zip?

A tribute to friends, boardwalks, beaches, and summer, Ben & Zip will keep readers guessing until the very end… when two short friends are reunited.

friendship, lost & found, summer, boardwalk, beach, height, partners, friends, dog, thunder, storm, short, challenged, body image positive, responsibility, caring friendship, lost & found, summer, boardwalk, beach, height, partners, friends, dog, thunder, storm, short, challenged, body image positive, responsibility, caring


  • Atlanta Parent Magazine Best Book, 2014


From Atlanta Parent 
Parents will gain a child’s perspective in this adventure featuring two short friends named Ben and Zip who become separated while strolling on a crowded boardwalk at the beach. As poor Ben frantically searches high and low for his friend, he can only see knees when he stands, all kinds of bellies when he stands on a bench, and way too much hair while standing on a tables. Ben’s resourcefulness to find his friend shows readers that you should never give up, no matter what size you are! 

From Kirkus Reviews 
A beachside lost-and-found adventure, told from a kid’s point of view. “Ben was short. Zip was shorter. They skipped along the boardwalk toward their favorite spot….” So begins this tale of a small boy who loses his smaller friend on a beachside boardwalk. The text informs readers that they are headed toward a popcorn wagon, while the illustration, a low aerial view of the beach and boardwalk dotted with people, makes it hard to tell who’s Ben and who’s Zip. Suddenly the wind whips up, the sound of thunder fills the air, and Zip dashes off, disappearing into the crowd. Then Ben is shown, dressed in a bold yellow-and-blue basketball jersey, frantically searching for Zip with his parents in tow. At first, all Ben can see is the vista from his level: “[r]ight knees, left knees, knees with sandy patches. / Fat knees, bony knees, knees with bumps and scratches.” The image of this forest of feet and legs is delightfully funny; some legs are hairy and some are not, and one pair reveals a whopping sunburn above the sock line. Each time Ben climbs a bit higher to scout out from a better view, the prose turns into a humorous rhyming description of what he sees: bellies, hair, an empty beach (it has begun to rain). The well-paced watercolor illustrations, abundant with marvelous, comic details, are a neat complement to the adventure. This boardwalk frolic proves even small fries can solve big mysteries. 

From School Library Journal 
Ben and Zip are heading toward their favorite popcorn cart on the boardwalk when the skies above start to rumble. Lickety-split, Zip bolts through the crowd, and Ben starts searching the seaside high and low for him with his parents racing behind him. When he looks low, the little boy sees only knees. The comical art depicts people of all shapes and sizes, and the accompanying rhyme is just plain fun. Both the art and the rhyme are funny. From a bench, Ben sees nothing but bellies. He looks up high but sees only a sea of hair, and still no Zip. Ah, he remembers where they were headed and, sure enough, his friend is there. Readers are in for a surprise, however, when they discover Zip’s identity. This is a fun-filled treat, filled with bright colors, amusing details, and beach scenes bustling with activity.—Reviewed by Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 

From Children’s Literature
Ben and Zip, short and shorter friends, are at the beach playing on the boardwalk when Zip is frightened by the thunder from a sudden storm. He runs away, and Ben tries to find him in the crowd. Being so short, all Ben can see is knees. Climbing on a bench reveals only a wide variety of bellies. From atop a picnic table, he sees all sorts of hair, from curly to swirly. Finally, from the top of the lifeguard stand, he sees the beach deserted in the rain. Ben runs back to the boardwalk hoping to find Zip there. Where and who Zip is turns out to be the final surprise of a happy, rhyming ending. Goldsmith uses India ink and watercolors to create naturalistic, lighthearted scenes of activity on beach and boardwalk in single- and double-page illustrations. He emphasizes the humor of the text; some of his knees house thickets of bristles while others are very skinny. Ben is a cartoon-y character with whom it is easy to empathize as he searches in the rain for his friend. 

From Horn Book Reviews 
“Ben was short. Zip was shorter.” While strolling on the boardwalk, young Ben loses Zip. Readers follow the search for what they assume is a child, but there’s a well-played surprise at book’s end: Zip is a dog. The … illustrations show the world through Ben’s eyes, which means that one spread is devoted to knees, another to bellies. 

From Kates Bookery 
I love surprise endings. As a grown up reading kids’ books, I’m not surprised very often by the ending. But the author and illustrator worked together and got me on this one…. I like the idea of being so in-the-moment (or on the current page) that my mind doesn’t think too much about what’s coming next (or on the final page). I’ll get there when I get there. This is a super new book with laugh-out-loud pages and wonder-what’ll-happen pages and one big oh-my-gosh-OF-COURSE! page at the end. Linden writes in a format you don’t see very often: some parts rhyme, some parts don’t. It works, and how nice for something a little different. And the book wouldn’t be as super without the sweet and funny illustrations by Goldsmith. Here’s the story: Two friends, Ben and Zip, are walking along the boardwalk on a hot, summer day. Suddenly, a storm overshadows the beach and Zip gets a little nervous and runs off. Ben can’t find him; he spends the next dozen pages searching for his buddy. First he searches low, from his own short perspective. And all he sees are: Right knees, left knees, knees with sandy patches. Fat knees, bony knees, knees with bumps and scratches. Next he gets a little higher, and scouts from the top of a bench. All he sees are (and how great is this illustration?!): Round bellies, flat bellies, bellies white and brown. Hairy bellies, jelly bellies, bellies hanging down. You see the pattern, I’m sure. As the clouds open up and rain starts coming down, Ben searches high among the heads and then climbs up to the tallest lifeguard stand he can find to look at the now empty beach. No Zip. Where could he be? Right at this point, my kids started to get worried. They were all in to this story and cared very much for Ben and even more for Zip, even though they didn’t know what he looked like. It was Zip, of course, who was lost and they know how scary that can feel. (You know an author’s done something right when three kids of three different ages are still, quiet, and impatiently waiting to find out what’s next.) And then Ben hears something. And they two friends are reunited. And my three kids could finally lean back in their chairs and breathe a sigh of relief. And this truly happened: they sat back in their chairs, laughed a little, and then came forward in their chairs, demanding I read it again so that they could look for clues that they should/could have seen to figure out who Zip is earlier. I can’t tell the ending. You’ve got to find out for yourself! 

From NY Parenting
Joanne Linden’s suspenseful picture book, set on the boardwalk, is a breath of salty, beach air! “Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends” follows Ben’s nail-biting adventure as he tries to find his pal, Zip, who was separated from him at the seashore. From Ben’s perspective, the boardwalk can be an ocean of view-blocking legs. Linden’s enterprising hero scales higher and higher vantage points in search of his rogue, vertically challenged companion. The boardwalk amusements and other illustrations are drawn in full-color pen-and-ink, with a double scoop of humor on top, by Tom Goldsmith. Recommended for kids ages 4-8 — and any parent who wants to preview summer’s pleasures — “Ben & Zip” is a real page-turner with playful verse and a heart-warming conclusion that’s as sweet as salt water taffy. 

From MLReads blog 
Ben’s friend is missing.  He searches the boardwalk and stands on a bench to get a better view.  It doesn’t help.  So he climbs a picnic bench. Then, a lifeguard stand where he is able to see his friend.  There’s a surprise to this book I’m not sharing. The illustrations in this book are a relief from the airbrushed media our children are exposed to daily.  It shows what real people look like at the beach. “Round bellies, flat bellies, bellies white and brown.  Hairy bellies, jelly bellies, bellies hanging down.” 

From Flying Off My Bookshelf 
blog Ben and his friend Zip are both short. Out on the boardwalk, Zip gets lost! Ben frantically searches for him, but all he can see is feet, knees, bellies, hair, and then nothing, as he climbs higher and higher and a storm sweeps in. Finally, he realizes where Zip must be and races to rescue his friend. There’s a tricky twist to the story – from the cover and the way it’s framed you think it’s another little boy, but it’s actually the dog of course, stuck under the boardwalk. It’s also got a nice diversity of people, as Ben climbs up higher and higher to look for Zip he sees all kinds of body types and races. There are some nice chanting refrains and cute illustrations. Not award-winning, but definitely a pleasant summer read and a good choice for storytime or one on one sharing. 

From The Corner on Character 
Themes: friendship, point of view, safety 
Brief synopsis: Ben and his friend are strolling down the boardwalk when suddenly Zip takes off running. Ben looks for Zip from many vantage points to no avail. What will it take for the friends to be reunited?  Ben went into problem-solving mode when he realized his friend was missing. Was Ben old enough to run up and down the beach looking for his friend by himself? Can you find his parents in the background on any of the pages? What would you have done if you were Ben? Why I like this book:  When a book doesn’t have a clear-cut character development theme that grabs me, I take my lead from my kids. So, I tested the book out with a first-grade friend. I asked him whom this book was going to be about, and, from looking at the cover, he predicted it’s about two boys: Ben, the little boy who lost his ice cream, and Zip, the boy in the runner’s shirt with the number 1 on it. Because runners are fast and that’s why he’s named Zip, he added. Interesting thinking. The book engaged this young fella, who loved alternating reading the pages aloud with me. He just giggled and giggled as he looked at life on the beach from Ben’s point of view. So intrigued by the book’s surprise ending, he asked if he could take it to his class so that they could read it. So we did. Before we took our picture walk, a first-grade girl intuitively asked, “Is this book about a dog?” but we both pretended not to hear her question and asked who they thought was Ben and who they thought was Zip. Even their teacher was shocked by the terrific twist at the end of this tale. The eye-catching detail in Goldsmith’s colorful illustrations mixed in with some repetitive and rhyming text and multi-level vantage points give the reader a sweet summertime story that won’t quickly be forgotten. Ask students what led them to believe that Zip was a boy. Find out how they felt when they figured out who Zip really was. Take a second look by reading it again and have them write or draw a Readers’ Response that shows how different the book looked the second time through. Then discuss or role play about feelings: How must Ben have felt as he was frantically searching for his friend? Find out if they’ve ever had a similar experience or feeling. Let them buddy buzz or pair and share. 

From Edwards Book Club 
Ben and Zip are best friends forever who like nothing better than strolling along the boardwalk. One day whilst walking, a sudden shower blows in.  Frightened by the thunder, Zip bolts into the crowd. What will happen next? Will Ben find his friend? I read this book with my 7 year old son (well, he read it to me) and we enjoyed the story and laughed out loud at the illustrations. The story follows two friends – Ben and Zip – on a day out on the boardwalk. The illustrations both inside and outside the book clearly outlined what a boardwalk might look like and all the activity that would take place on a warm summer’s day. A thunder storm blows in and Zip is scared away. Ben can’t find him anywhere and sets out to find him. His quest to find his best friend is told in a very funny way and from the perspective of a small boy who is shorter than everyone else on the boardwalk. The author describes, in hilarious fashion, what you might see from that angle – knees and bellies! Along Ben’s journey, the author allows you to imagine the side stalls, the games, the prizes, the food, and the band playing on the boardwalk. Follow Ben until he finds Zip and marvel at the surprising conclusion! Clever, funny, and descriptive, this book would be ideal for preschoolers up to Grade 2. Adults will enjoy it too and will perhaps be transported to a time when they were eye level with people’s bellies! 

From CM Magazine, the Canadian Review of Material 
…Punctuated with rhyming, the flow of this book has a nice sense of suspense which will keep children guessing, where’s Zip? …Tom Goldsmith’s beautiful watercolour Illustrations have a fun comical element. Reviewed by Kaitlyn Vardy, a Children’s Librarian at the Prince George Public Library in Prince George, BC. 

From 1st Grade Reading 
First graders will love the fact that many of the illustrations are from their perspective. This would be great as a read aloud because all the kids can help look for Zip. In fact, the reader will be driven to go back to the beginning and find all the places Ben, Zip, and each of his parents appear. The illustrations are detailed and lively and do a great job of involving the reader. Along with literacy skills, this book is good for teaching observation skills. 

From Cute Peach Book Reviews 
“…The book has both mommy and kid approval. This is an excellent book about a boy and his dog. It teaches the valuable lesson that people come in all shapes and sizes. It has a classic style to it and I think it would be a cherished addition to any book collection.” 

From City Book Review
reviewed by Nishaant, Age 5 
Ben and Zip are at the boardwalk. They are looking for popcorn. The sky turns black. Lightening! Thunder! Zip runs off. Ben looks for Zip. All he sees are knees. He goes on a bench. All he sees are bellies. (The awesomest page in the world! I love the belly picture. There is a kid looking at his own belly button.) Ben runs and climbs on a table to look for Zip. He just sees hair. (My favorite hair is the Grandma’s – and the Grandpa’s.) Ben climbs up a ladder to the lifeguard stand. He sees nothing, just birds. Everyone ran away, because it’s raining. (I have a question: why did they leave everything and just run away?) Then Ben sees the popcorn stand from the ladder. He goes to the popcorn stand. He hears Zip. Will Ben find Zip? Read the book to find out. The pictures are cute! The parents running after Ben are funny. (They are slow. “Excuse me, we’re trying to catch you here.”) This book is good. I can read this book myself. 

From Midwest Book Review 
Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends is a charming children’s picturebook about a short little boy named Ben, and his good friend Zip. An accident suddenly separates them during a busy day at the beach. How is Ben to find Zip? Ben is so short that all he can see is people’s knees! When he climbs on a bench, all he can see are bellies! When he climbs even higher, all he can see is hair! Ben perseveres, and finally locates Zip in time to help him. Poor Zip has a tough time being short too, because Zip happens to be a dachshund! The delightful, free-spirited illustrations add the perfect touch to this silly, playful story.

*Talk about safety with info from SafeKids Worldwide {here}.

About the Creators

Joanne Linden is the author of Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends, illustrated by Tom Goldsmith. Joanne grew up near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Northern Minnesota, and likes to spend lazy summer days at the family lake cottage in northern Wisconsin, where she reads, writes, and paints. She is the author of two non-fiction children’s books about dogs, Shih Tzus and Yorkshire Terriers, and her stories and articles have been published in many magazines. Joanne lives in Eau Claire, WI, with her husband and their beloved Scottish terrier, Auggie. Ben and Zip is her first fiction picture book.
You can find out more about Joanna and her work on her


Tom Goldsmith, friendship, lost & found, summer, boardwalk, beach, height, partners, friends, dog, thunder, storm, short, challenged, body image positive, responsibility, caring, ben and zip

Tom Goldsmith is the illustrator of Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends, written by Joanne Linden. Tom was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. The complexity of animal’s lives, and people’s relationships with creatures both real and imagined, are endless sources of inspiration for him. For more than twenty years, he has produced countless illustrations in the North American advertising, book, Magazine Market. He is a regular illustrator in Just Labs Magazine, having illustrated the featured children’s page, Just For Kids, for the past decade. Tom works from his studio in a 130-year-old Victorian home that he shares with his wife and two children in the village of Coldwater, Ontario, Canada, near the shores of Georgian Bay.
You can find out more about Tom and his work on his
 website or blog.

Book Details

ISBN: HC 9781936261284  ePDF 9781936261529  ePUB 9781936261444  KF8 9781936261451
Print Length: 32 Full Color Pages
Publication Date: Spring 2014
Age Group: 4-8
Lexile Measure: 520L
Word Count: 390
Foreign Edition: Chinese

friendship, lost & found, summer, boardwalk, beach, height, partners, friends, dog, thunder, storm, short, challenged, body image positive, responsibility, caring, ben and zip

Activity Guides & More

THEMES: friendship, lost & found, summer, boardwalk, beach, height

Leveling Information

Lexile Measurements provided by Metametrics. Guided Reading Levels provided by Marla Conn using Fountas and Pinnel Guided Reading Text Characteristics.

Lexile Display: AD480L

Word Count: 363

MSL: 6.6

MLF: 3.293

Decoding Display: Medium

Semantic Display: High

Syntactic Display: Medium

Structure Display: High

Guided Reading Level: J

Grade Level Equivalent: 1

Interest Level by Grade: Pre-K-3

Educational Description: Picture book, realistic fiction, lyrical text, rhythm and rhyme

Story Elements: Setting: beach boardwalk, plot and character development: young main character Ben, problem and solution, humorous tone, illustrations enhance meaning and tone

Comprehension Strategies: identify cause and effect relationships, changes from beginning to end of the story, sequence of events, predicting outcomes, compare and contrast

Themes: friendship, boardwalk, beach, lost and found, boy and his dog