Published: 18th June 2021
Publisher: Puffin (imprint of Penguin Random House)
Format: Hardback Picture book (courtesy of Penguin Random House)
This is your bench
Where you’ll witness great joy.
From here you will rest
See the growth of our boy.
In The Bench, Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, touchingly captures the evolving and expanding relationship between father and son and reminds us of the many ways that love can take shape and be expressed in a modern family.
Evoking a deep sense of warmth, connection, and compassion, The Bench gives readers a window into shared and enduring moments between a diverse group of fathers and sons—moments of peace and reflection, trust and belief, discovery and learning, and lasting comfort.
Working in watercolour for the first time, Caldecott-winning, bestselling illustrator Christian Robinson expands on his signature style to bring joy and softness to the pages, reflecting the beauty of a father’s love through a mother’s eyes.
With a universal message, this thoughtful and heartwarming read-aloud is destined to be treasured by families for generations to come.
The Bench by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex and illustrated by Christian Robinson is a beautiful picture book to behold. At its core, it’s a sweet poem about the unique bond a father and son share from the perspective of a mother looking on. While the concept, might not be anything unique or groundbreaking, you can feel Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex’s love for her family on every page and Christian Robinson’s devotion to theirs in every illustration.
The first thing I noticed about this picture book was its weight; coming in at forty pages (the average picture book-length is thirty-two) and in hardback with a dust jacket, this is one weighty but beautiful picture book. The second thing I noticed was its finishes; with regard to the author, the publishers went all out with this book, making sure the book matched the authors regal standing in appearance and feel. One of the first things I did upon opening my parcel from the publisher was run my hands over the beautiful cover. The title is embossed in gold foil, with the rest of the dust jacket being not quite glossy but not fully matte either, but smooth in a refined way if that makes sense. I’m not really sure how to explain it (clearly) but it just feels different. When I peeled away the dust jacket the naked cover of the book is matte and features the wood grain of the stories Bench, with a H + A for Prince Harry and Archie inscribed in the bottom corner of the book. When all of this is combined with Robinson’s elegant endpapers and the thick luxurious feel of the paper, you know upon opening that this going to be a special book.
Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex has crafted a poem full of love, wonder and devotion, illustrating the close bond between a father and a child. Her writing is simple but elegant, and the message of the book is really quite special. While this book was clearly written with Prince Harry and their son Archie in mind, Christian Robinson’s illustrations open the book up to a wider audience by portraying a different father and child on every page, making sure to include families from every background, class, race and age range. In terms of the writing, the poem uses rather simple text, with an average of two lines of text to a page. The text has been arranged in a straightforward font (17-point Jazmin according to the copyright page) that makes the writing clear and legible, surrounding it with a lot of white space. Robinson’s illustrations are elegant and simple, using a mix of paint, and pencils to create heartfelt family scenes between a father and a son on any given day. I found Robinson’s illustrations enhanced the overall feeling of the book.
With so much hype in the media, and criticism surrounding the book and its author well before release, this book is out there to impress and I think it does its job. At the time of writing this review, the book has hit several best selling lists within its first week of release, and while there is a lot of criticism surrounding the lack of mothers and daughters in this book, I think people are missing this point. This book wasn’t meant to be about everyone. It was written with a very distinguished and distinctive audience in mind; it’s about two people who mean the world to the writer. While the story can be taken and applied the world over, it will always be a story about a mother reflecting on the bond between her husband and their child, and the wonder she sees in their interactions behind closed doors.
I really did enjoy The Bench by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex and Christian Robinson and think it would make a great addition to a child’s home library and/or as a great Father’s Day present.