A feel-good story about the importance of good friends. Recommended as a bedtime read or whenever you want to feel more positive in these turbulent times.
Bear is determined to be a good friend to Squirrel. He promises to stick with Squirrel whether he’s grumpy, silly or mad. Through good times and bad times, happy or sad, and whenever things go wrong. Unfortunately, he is just too overbearing for Squirrel who finally snaps and tells Bear he wants to be left alone. Bear reluctantly agrees and, it is only when he is gone, that Squirrel realises quite how important Bear is as a friend. But has he left it too late? Will Bear be happy to see him again?
Written in rhyme, the text of this story is simply and yet also pleasingly poetic. What struck me most, however, when reading this book was how the text and the pictures work in parallel. The words focus on the emotional relationship between the two characters with very limited cues for the illustrator to follow (e.g. the line ‘Whatever you’re thinking, I AM ALL EARS, I’m ready to listen to ALL your ideas.’). The pictures, in contrast, have a very clear story of mishaps and problems. (By the time we reach the line above Squirrel has acquired a bandage around his head from Bear joining him on the seesaw and as Bear offers to listen he is pictured breaking Squirrel’s teacup.) I really loved this interplay between the words and the pictures and there is so much detail that I found myself returning again and again to study the pictorial story.
Steve Small’s seemingly simple illustrations make good use of the white page and are instantly appealing. Both Bear and Squirrel have lots of personality and their emotions are clear. Squirrel’s mounting frustration with Bear is beautifully portrayed and there is a heart wrenching image of him cornered and sad when he finds himself squeezed into the back of cave. I almost wanted to lift him out of the book and hug him!
The inclusion of specific events in the illustrations makes the message of this book – about the importance of friendship even when things aren’t perfect – feel more real. (If a relationship between a bear and a squirrel can be real!) Indeed, the story encourages the reader to consider their friends intentions as well as their actions and to support each other, even in the bad times.
Closing the book leaves the reader with a warm glow, making it a particularly suitable bedtime read. However, in these turbulent times, a feel-good story like this is something we probably need at all times of the day.
Date: August 2020
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Website: Smriti Halls