Carnegie Award 2013 Shortlist: A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat

This book looks beautiful. The illustrations are gorgeous and the whole thing is very appealing in hardback and paperback. It is a whimsical tale about a boy, and a bear, in a boat – like the title says!

I loved the beginning; the boy’s tentative boarding of the boat made me smile. His caution and apprehension about his journey are captured superbly, and I adored how the rolling of the boat made his voice tremble. Early on I was convinced I was going to fall hard for this book, especially as the drawings truly enhance the reading experience.

As the boy starts to suspect they may be lost, and a tedious game of I-Spy ensues, I started to wonder where the story was going too. However, I was bowled over by the bear’s lovely manners and the dainty way he ate his sandwiches and drank his tea. When the boy and the bear fall out, and the boy resorts to personal insult, well I was indignant on the bear’s behalf.

As the storm crept up on one very fed-up boy and a still sanguine bear I was entranced. There were parts of the tale that carried me along effortlessly, such as coming across the Mermaid. But, there were also parts that lost me completely, especially the sandwich monster. The interaction between the boy and the bear is super, and I took away positive messages about self-reliance and dealing with boredom.

Overall, I didn’t fall in love with the book despite finding many positive and good things in it. It feels to me that it would benefit from being read aloud, to get that instant reaction from it’s intended audience. As an adult reading it I got stuck on some of the dafter moments in what mostly felt like a gentle voyage in personal discovery.

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