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A Friend Like Ben: The cat that came home for Christmas [Hardcover]

Julia Romp
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Oct 2010

The heart-warming true story of a little boy and the cat that changed his life.

Nine year old George was severely autistic; quiet and withdrawn, he appeared lost in his own world most of the time. His mother Julia despaired, but try as she might she couldn't bring him out of his shell. Then one day a small, black-and-white stray cat appeared at the bottom of her garden and George's face lit up at the sight of him. Despite herself Julia agreed to adopt him as a pet.

George named his new friend Ben, and the four-legged addition to the household had a wonderful and unexpected side-affect. George and Ben bonded, and George began to open up; to play with Ben, to converse with him and make up stories about their adventures together to excitedly recount to Julia. For Julia this was a magical way to communicate with her son – and Ben had made it possible.

For three happy years, the trio were inseparable and George made remarkable progress. But then disaster struck – Ben went missing. The small cat who had coaxed George out of a world of silence had disappeared, and nobody could find him.

George was utterly devastated and, pining for his lost friend, he began to retreat into himself. Sensing her son was slipping through her fingers once more, Julia embarked on a desperate search; a search that would see her travelling across numerous counties, risking injury and enlisting help from all different places, and all different people.

The weeks turned into months, and Christmas was fast approaching but George did not want to celebrate without Ben by his side. Julia privately despaired of ever finding her son's best friend but four days before Christmas Day, during the worst snowfall ever, Julia got a call from a family living in Brighton, over 50 miles from their home in London, which finally offered a ray of hope …

Captivating, uplifting and genuinely touching, A Friend like Ben is the remarkable true story about the extraordinary devotion and empathy between a little boy and his cat, and a mother's determined journey to make her son whole again.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (14 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007376138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007376131
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 430,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘Julia paints a vivid picture of the symptoms and effects of autism… A truly inspirational biography.’ Hull Daily Mail

‘A very interesting read which is both uplifting and informative.’ South Wales Argus

‘A satisfying true story… the perfect Christmas gift for a cat lover.’ The Weekend Examiner

‘Heart-warming… perfect winter reading.’ Your Cat Magazine

About the Author

Julia Romp lives in Isleworth with her son George and their cat Ben. When she is not looking after her family and the stray cats in the area, Julia works for the charity Lost and Found helping to re-home cats. After her success of her campaign to find Ben, Julia has become known as the local pet detective.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars zoe 19 Oct 2010
By suki
Wonder of wonders, the book i have most enjoyed, a young boys life with autism.... I have a child with this condition and life is a hurdle..this book made me laugh and cry,Magnificent read and truly inspirational.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and uplifting story 16 April 2012
By Peter Durward Harris #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
This is about a single mother (the author), an autistic boy (her son) and a cat (who they met by accident). It seems that the author had a good childhood, but it didn't exactly prepare her for the birth of her son, who wasn't like other baby boys. It took several years to learn that the boy was autistic, previous to which a lot of people had stereotypically assumed that he was a badly behaved boy and that his mother wasn't very good. You might think in this day and age that the relevant authorities would be able to detect autism at a very early age, but it's clearly not the case. Even having identified the problem, it still wasn't easy for mother and son to communicate with each other.

One day, a stray cat in poor condition walked into their life and the mother took it to the vet, not sure who if anybody owned it. When the vet was ready to release the cat to a home, the mother was offered the cat. Initially reluctant, she changed her mind when she saw that her son was interested in the cat. From that point on, the son began to communicate in ways that he had not done before. Everything was so much better after that until the cat disappeared one day, and the son relapsed to his previous condition. Three months pass by during which the mother searches extensively for the cat. He is eventually found a few days before Christmas, not by her efforts, but by the microchip she'd had implanted in him when she first took care of him. So the story ends happily, at least for now. The mother knows that she will have to find a replacement cat some day, but that is for the future.

Apart from whatever skill she has shown in dealing with her son, the author has managed to present her story in an interesting way that avoids being too soppy or whatever. I can only hope that the future is good for the family, and that the authorities get their act together and ensure that autism awareness is made more widespread.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Ron
This is a wonderful book of a mother's unconditional love for her son and much more. Reading A Friend Like Ben: The cat that came home for Christmas was truly inspirational. It is easy to read, and the author has a very moving story, which gave me a better understanding of what a mother goes through, with a child who has autism. What is more amazing about this book, is selfless determination of the author in finding Ben for her son. This read had humour and courage and I Loved it! it is a truly great read and definitely inspiring. If It wasn't for a mother love for her child, then Ben would not have been home for Christmas...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars V|ery pleasant, easy read 11 Oct 2012
By H
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this book as I am an absolute sucker for cat story books. However, as much as there is quite a bit about Ben the cat, the story is more about the trials and tribulations and successes of a young single mother and her challenged young son. It is a very uplifting tale nonetheless and one cannot but be full of admiration for the author; however, I would have preferred more about the cat. This is not to say that I did not enjoy it, I did. It is also a short book and took no time at all to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful Mum! 4 Jan 2011
First heard of this story on BBC Outlook, then read several items about Ben and George on the internet. Not available in the US. Could not put this book down. What a wonderful and sweet story. I think Julia should help George to write some stories about Ben's adventures - When Ben Built a Roller Coaster, When Ben Jumped Out of a Plane, and When Ben Met Superman.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A Friend Like Ben is a fascinating and heart warming read. Julia Romp's portrayal of her son and his autistic symptoms is very moving and provides a real insight into the reality of the condition. I loved the adventures George created for Ben. Apart from cat lovers (I am one) I think child and educational psychologists should read this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars View from across the pond 25 Dec 2010
By Loopy
This book was featured in an article on the internet, & this really made the complete story a must-read. There is no e-book available outside the UK & the printed book is only available from Amazon.uk. I couldn't understand why since the story has universal appeal. What a nice surprise I got when I started reading it, since it is not only a touching story but a delightful puzzle for Yanks like me who know nothing about London. I am annotating the book in pencil in the margins after looking up the definitions of the British terms in Google. For example, on pages 3 & 4, the first two pages of Chapter 1, I have 6 annotations! If you are a Brit you will just have to put up with a wonderful, touching story and not have the opportunity to stretch your brain, since you will already understand the terms used. Maybe one day the book will be published for American readers who aren't puzzle lovers. Thank you, Julia Romp. Merry Christmas, Ben, Julia & George!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put this book down 7 Jan 2011
I was given this book for xmas and could not put this book down. I did not know much about autism and this has given me an insight into the daily problems for you all. Having cats for 30+ years I knew they understood feelings and people took strength from contact with animals. I think you are both extraordinary people with great courage who have been given so much by Ben.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
brilliant sad and happy really enjoyed this book
Published 2 days ago by sempa fi
4.0 out of 5 stars If I were writing the blurb I'd use terms like heartwarming and...
If I were writing the blurb I'd use terms like heartwarming and touching. A light read that just avoids sentimentality.
Published 21 days ago by Mrs. DS
5.0 out of 5 stars A friend like Ben
This was a truly fantastic and moving story about how animals can change our lives. The love animals bring and the peace that comes with that live. Ben was an amazing friend!
Published 1 month ago by C a Roberts, Christine Ann Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely wonderful
I laughed and cried (ok mainly cried) throughout this amazing and heartfelt story. It has taught me so much about autism most of which I didn't know or have a clue about. Read more
Published 3 months ago by siouxsievamp
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
This is one of the most heartwarming story's I have ever read if any reader decides to purchase this make sure first of all that you have at least a full size box of tissues you... Read more
Published 6 months ago by telephonegirl
4.0 out of 5 stars A briliant insightful book of love determination and devotion.
Well written and gives a clear insight into the problems and devotion in rearing an autistic child, I can say I admire the writer unconditionally and wish her everything that is... Read more
Published 6 months ago by P . Brill
5.0 out of 5 stars easy read
such a good read especially if you are a cat lover like so many of my friends are...meow meow meow
Published 6 months ago by irene
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
This is a fabulous read and as a cat lover myself could identify with many things written. What a lovely book to show power of the love of an animal.
Published 8 months ago by EmmaRay
1.0 out of 5 stars A Friend Like Ben
The story was quite interesting (I have a child with classic autism) but it was terribly written and it became quite tedious in the end. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Simone
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
I so enjoyed this book. Such a great story and such a great cat! It is a heart warming read and is a perfect way for helping people to understand what it must be like to live... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jill in East Kent
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