Saturday 18 September 2010

The Very Itchy Bear

The Very Itchy Bear by Nick Bland (Scholastic Press)

HB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74169-651-6
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

The Very Itchy Bear is a simply told story of friendship and how we shouldn’t let first impressions cloud our judgement about someone else or their intentions. Bear is minding his own business, sitting on a log reading a book, when Flea arrives and says ‘Hello!’ However, Flea does this by ‘biting high and biting low’.

Understandably, Bear itches like crazy. He jumps about and rolls around, ending up in the sea. Eventually, Bear dislodges Flea but finds that now he is alone, he is frightened. More than this, he becomes concerned for the welfare of Flea and rescues him from a hungry bird. The book ends with the two safely back on dry land and Bear reading to Flea.

The text is rhyming and somewhat reminded me of the classic Dr Seuss’ stories with very simple short sentences which tell the tale succinctly and with humour. The illustrations are bold and colourful, perfectly portraying Bear’s personality. The reader feels Bear’s surprise at being bitten, sympathises with his itchiness and then Bland skilfully switches from the humour to Bear’s uncertainty as the two float out to sea. The final illustration of the two friends reading together as the sunsets is a powerful and satisfying conclusion.

This book is perfect to encourage young children to discuss friendship and how we may misconstrue people’s actions towards us just as Bear misconstrued Flea’s bite as an attack rather than the greeting that was intended. The Very Itchy Bear encourages us to evaluate our relationships. Bear’s feeling of loneliness outweighed his annoyance at Flea, and Flea recognised that Bear does not like being bitten. The two come to work out their differences and their friendship develops.

I highly recommend The Very Itchy Bear and it is exceptional value at $15.99 for a hardback copy.

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