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July 25, 2012

New Books: No Bears

I've said it before, but I keep finding new evidence: There's something special about Australian-born picture-book authors and illustrators. (For anyone who hasn't read my prior encomiums on this subject, the short version: Check out the work of Martine Murray, Sophie Blackall, and Freya Blackwood for starters.)

The most recent example is a new favorite of our three-year-old's, No Bears, written by Meg McKinlay and illustrated by Leila Rudge, in which a girl named Ella—one of those matter-of-fact, feisty girls Australia is apparently full of, given how perfectly the nation's authors capture the type—tells us about the book she's writing. It's an adventure story about a princess, but this narrator wants to make things clear from the start: There will be no bears in this tale, because "I'm tired of bears. Every time you read a book, it's just BEARS BEARS BEARS—horrible furry bears slurping honey in awful little caves. You don't need BEARS for a book."

And she goes on to prove the point: Her princess is kidnapped by a terrible monster, then rescued by a fairy godmother, without a bear to be seen. Well, except for that one outside the "frame" of the illustrations, who seems to be helping Ella create both the story and the art. And who also seems to step into the story herself momentarily to save the day when that fairy godmother has misplaced her wand. And who can be seen at the end telling all Ella's characters what really happened. But other than that, nope, no bears here at all.

No Bears is sweet, it's funny, it's clever, and it's visually imaginative. In other words, it's everything I've come to expect from a picture book from Australians!

[Cover image courtesy of Candlewick Press]

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