"Gorgeous bears with a gentle empathetic message about difference and friendship"
A new book from Greenaway winner Catherine Rayner is always going to be a visual treat and the luminous watercolour and inked images are a delight. As one bear meets another the initial reaction is defensive and even hostile, but Other Bear defuses the situation with calm friendliness and they go on together; each thinking their own thoughts but now moving in the same direction.
Grunty Bear is a bit embarrassed by his first negative reaction to them and follows along. Very Big Bear is even more direct: “Go Away” he says and when asked why, says “ Because I don’t know you” Again he is disarmed by calm friendliness and again he follows along and we are told the four of them are beginning to think alike: that it is pleasant to be with other bears. Then they find Stuck Bear up a tree who insists he is fine: “But a Stuck Bear clearly needs help” and they all cooperate to help. So, in a gentle and non-dogmatic fashion, important points are made. There can be a tendency in humans to be wary of difference, but this is a lovely way to demonstrate empathy and will generate lots of discussion and could perhaps help to make a difference to our future generations' attitude toward helping 'stuck bears' all over the world.