Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat
Dave Shelton
Oxford, David Fickling, 2012, 294p

Another Carnegie book, following on from Wonder. This one is of a slightly different style, being slightly less thought-provoking and emotional.

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat - the title kind of speaks for itself. A boy and a bear set off in a boat for a nondescript journey. When the bear asks, "Where to?", the boy replies, "Just over to the other side, please." Sounds simple enough, but the journey is wrought with anomalies in the tides and strange weather, so the least of my concern was why the bear could talk.

The novel was not full of twists and turns, but was a slow-paced, gentle sort of ride across the sea. Of course, things happened - sea creatures sneak up on them, they run out of food - but the story does not carry itself on the back of adventure. Even the characters are not greatly developed; we learn that the bear likes tea and the boy can be brave and can act the leader when needed, but we do not learn their names. 

I kind of liked the pace and story-telling style of this book, but I am not sure that many kids would engage with it. The language was delightfully childish, and the novel was full of brilliant illustrations, awakening the reader's imagination with pictures of the stormy sea. In an ideal world, this kind of gentle romp would be all that a young reader would want or need; but I fear that, with the increasing demand for drama and instant gratification, this novel might not be what many young people want. 

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