Friday 30 March 2012

Gilbert the Great

Gilbert the Great [Board book]
Gilbert the Great [Board book] by Jane Clarke, illustrated by Charles Fuge (Simon and Schuster)
BB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-085707223-8
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

From the time Gilbert the Great White Shark was a tiny pup, Raymond the Remora stuck to him like glue.  Raymond was always on Gilbert’s side.  But one day Gilbert wakes up to discover that Raymond has gone.  Mrs Munch does everything she can to help Gilbert come to terms with his loss.  Slowly, Gilbert learns to smile again.  He knows that Raymond will always be in his heart and, when Mrs Munch takes Gilbert to the wreck, a chance meeting brings friendship into his life once more.

Gilbert the Great [Board book] is a gentle story primarily about loss.  Gilbert’s best friend, his constant companion, has suddenly gone.  He is confused, lonely and hurt and the bulk of the book shows Gilbert working through these emotions and trying to come to terms with his grief.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, as Gilbert stumbles upon Rita the Remora who has lost her shark.  They agree to stick together and a new friendship is formed.

Despite the heavy topic, Jane Clarke has still maintained a light and fun tone – helped by the inclusion of several ocean-inspired puns.  There are other more subtle aspects to the story as well: being mindful of the things we say to our loved ones (it may be the last time we speak to them); not bottling up our feelings (Gilbert has a long cry); that grieving is a process of many emotions.  

Charles Fuge’s illustrations are a lovely compliment to the story; colourful and including lots of detail.  Gilbert’s underwater world is brought to life with sea-creatures of every shape and colour.

Gilbert the Great [Board book] is a heart-warming story that celebrates the importance of friends in our lives.

Jane Clarke is the author of several picture books including: Smoky Dragons and Tusk Trouble.  She lives in the UK with her two sons and two Labradors.  Charles Fuge has illustrated more than thirty picture books including Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball and Bush Vark's First Day Out (Picturemacs S.).

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