by Dave Shelton
I found this to be an endearing and very funny page-turner in which not much happens – other than we witness a young boy gradually bonding with a bear on a boat on a never-ending voyage. Witty and funny – and with fabulously simple illustrations – this has much to say about ‘getting on with it’ in the most basic sense of every day life. The ending may disappoint and puzzle young readers – and some of the dry humour of the bear and the underlying ‘big life’ themes may go above their heads, but it’s a delight to read. As much (if not more) for adults as for children! I was a little skeptical that it seemed to mimic the Life of Pi idea – but all is forgiven! I should concede that there is some action in the second half of the book, which comes just in time.
We discussed this book at the Guardian/Nosy Crow Book Group this evening, where many felt that pace was too slow early on. It is slow, but that didn’t trouble me – I enjoyed the simplicity. We also felt that the paperback version had the ‘look and feel’ of a book for children younger than its purported target of 8-12, and that children might find that problematic. Conversely the hardback cover (see above left) felt very adult – and so potentially posed another marketing challenge. I personally see this as a read aloud for 6-7 year-olds who will just enjoy the story for what it is …. I could then see them picking it up and re-reading when older and seeing far more in it, as we adults did.