CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 11. . . .November 13, 2009
Jack the Bear.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2009.
40 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.
Review by Lindsay Schluter.
"Who's that?" asked Nosy Fox.
"That's Jack the Bear," said Brainy Owl.
"Oh? And what's he doing?" Nosy Fox was, well, nosy.
"He's making the world a better place," replied Brainy Owl.
Nosy Fox smirked. "He looks like he's just sitting in the shade with a jar of honey."
"Take a closer look," said Brainy Owl. "What do you see?"
Nosy Fox just doesn't get it. Jack the Bear is just sitting there, underneath the shade of an old oak tree, eating his honey with Grumpy Squirrel – and yet, according to Brainy Owl, Bear is making the world a better place. But how could that be? Isn't that the job of kings and queens? Scientists and philosophers?
In this heart-warming tale about compassion and benevolence, readers learn that a simple act of kindness can go a long way – even if it's as small as putting a smile on someone's face. With all of his wisdom and wit, Brainy Owl tells Nosy Fox that our world is a very big place and that it takes more than just inventions and ideas to make a positive impact on the world. It is the selfless acts of the individual that can serve as the seed of change, and with a little love and goodwill, we can make a worldwide impact, one good deed at a time.
It is an important lesson, and, although it is somewhat ambitious to tackle such an abstract concept within the confines of a 40 page picturebook, Leist does succeed, in the end, at sending home a clear and boiled down message. Along the way, parents may well have to explain what a "philosopher" is, or who the "peace prize winners" are, but in a sense, the book is more of a jumping off point – its final pages should mean the start of a conversation, rather the end.
The book's playful illustrations were created on recycled paper shopping bags, using a combination of watercolor, crayon, ballpoint pen, marker and pencil. The effect is incredibly organic, with the most delicious textures, folds, and creases – particularly on the book's double-page spreads. Occasionally, you can spy a spot of bold red lettering that reads, "Pull Handles Up Not Out" – a fun little detail that serves to remind us of the book's origins.
Leist's artwork is both whimsical and spontaneous, featuring a background of beautifully shaped splotches and scribbles that slowly emerge to the eye as leaves and branches and earth and sky. The characters themselves are charming, but not in a "cutesy" sort of way – they are quirky and unusual with wide-eyed gazes and bashful grins.
For those looking to inspire young children to change the world, this book serves as a good introduction. Certainly, if we all learned to be a little bit like Jack the Bear, who shares his honey, the world would be a much sweeter place.
Lindsay Schluter is a Youth Librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.
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