Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
A while back I told you how much I enjoyed Meg McKinlay's Duck for a Day, a junior novel published by Walker Books. So I gleefully grabbed this Australian authors' recent picture book. The formats are different, but I found the same delightful sense of humour I appreciated in Duck for a Day.
No Bears is a children's picture book written by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge (who also illustrated Duck for a Day) and published by Walker Books (2011.)
Ruby is in charge of this book. And she’ll tell you something right now. There are NO BEARS in it. Not even one.
Ruby is positive of one thing: you don't need bears for a story. What you need are pretty or funny or exciting or scary things, maybe even monsters and giants. She's over bears - "…horrible furry bears slurping honey in grotty little caves." Ruby is a great character. She shows herself to be one of those young girls who knows exactly what she wants and is wholly intent on her goal. The subtext of course is Rudge's sabotaging Ruby with pictures of a bear peeping from each page. I loved the humour of Ruby's determination, forthrightness and anti-bear stance juxtaposed with the onlooking, helpful (and finally life-saving) bear, and kids will too.
There are lots of references to fairy tales and rhymes that children will recognise and enjoy pointing out, like an owl and a pussycat rowing the monster in a bathtub, and a girl letting down her long golden hair. This makes No Bears an excellent choice for teachers and librarians looking for fairy tale resources.
Rudge's art work is just gorgeous. I love the limited palette of colours she's chosen, the patterns and texture, the quirky characters. Most of all, children will adore the little surprises she puts on each page for the reader to nod at, giggle about and mull over. It's also a great picture book to use for developing visual literacy in kids - there are so many different kinds of visual formats. From a diagram of paper crown instructions, to a map of faraway lands, to those amazingly detailed yet uncomplicated pictures - all will hone children's observation skills and inspire them to create their own fantastical magical adventures.
Kids need books like No Bears. I loved it, and I think your kids will too.
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