A Boy and a Bear in a Boat

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A Boy and a Bear in a Boat
Author(s)
Age Range
6+
Release Date
June 12, 2012
ISBN
9780385752497
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A boy and a bear go to sea, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book, and a ukulele. The bear assures the boy that they are traveling a short distance and it really shouldn't take very long. But then they encounter "unforeseeable anomalies": turbulent stormy seas! a terrifying sea monster! and the rank remains of The Very Last Sandwich. The odds are pitted against the boy and the bear and their boat.

Will the Harriet, their trusted vessel, withstand the violent lashings of the salty waves? And will anyone ever answer their message in a bottle?

Editor reviews

2 reviews

More philosophy than story
(Updated: June 23, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
3.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
5.0
The Little Prince is sometimes considered -- mistakenly, I think -- a children's book. Just because a book is about a child, or about the lessons we want children to learn or about the truths we hope they do not forget as they age, it doesn't make it a book for children. That is, in the end, the reluctant conclusion I reached about (the in some ways truly remarkable) A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT.

To be fair, I liked the book. I appreciate when authors don't tie themselves in knots justifying the odd truths of their fictional worlds. We don't know why a bear is captaining a boat, or why a boy is getting on board, or where he hopes to get to -- these things just are. We don't need to know why.

Yet in the end, the lack of reasons -- of goals -- means that the book loses momentum. The journey becomes too interior, a journey of acceptance and personal development. Such a journey is important, but perhaps not so much to the 10-year-old who still hopes personal development means she will in fact become a pirate king or an Arctic explorer. Teenagers begin to understand that most of their adventures will be inside themselves, and grown-ups too, if we do not forget, know that our inner landscapes are where we will do most of our exploring.

I enjoyed the whimsy of the sandwiches, the mercurial personality of the bear and the growing contentment both characters felt with the fact that their journey would have no end, that the journey was the destination. It's also worth repeating that A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT frequently made me think of A Little Prince, which is high praise indeed.

It just doesn't mean I would suggest it to a child.
Good Points
Beautiful illustrations
Unusual story
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A three hour tour...
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
2.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0
A boy approaches a bear in a boat and asks how long it will take to get "just to the other side". Well, apparently longer than a three-hour tour, because the bear runs into "unforseen anomalies". The duo drift for days and days, subsisting on bizarre sandwiches and, since this is a British author, tea. They run into storms and giant sea monsters, have to catch fish, and end up on a weirdly antique ship after their smaller boat floats away. When that, too, is destroyed, the two sail off into the sunset with the boy using the bear as a boat.
Good Points
Rather cute in a Paddington Bear sort of way, with illustrations by the author.
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