Saturday 21 August 2021

A Boy, his Bear and a Bully

A Boy, his Bear and a Bully by Katie Flannigan, illustrated by P.J. Reece (EK Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN: 9781925820898

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

Scott takes his teddy bear, Buttons, to school every day ‘to help him feel brave’. He needs all the help he can get, because a boy called Duncan is mean to Scott all the time – calling him names, ripping up his artwork and stealing his snacks. But one day, Buttons goes missing. How can Scott feel brave now? He soon finds his brave bubbling within him, and lets it out in one big dinosaur roar: ‘STOP Duncan. I don’t like it!’ Duncan finally reveals where he hid Buttons, he apologises for being mean and perhaps, in the future, there is a chance that Scott and Duncan can be buddies.

Ideal for kids aged four to eight years, Katie Flannigan’s sympathetic story is a guiding light in the dark world of bullying. She poses an intriguing question to the reader – where does ‘brave’ come from? – and deftly answers that question through Scott’s actions: ‘brave’ comes from within, not outside yourself. Then Katie reveals the best way to manifest that bravery in the face of relentless bullying: by verbally standing up for yourself. In addition, there is a lovely nod to the importance of support networks for those who are bullied, with Scott’s friend Rosie standing beside him every step of the way.

P.J. Reece offers a calming colour palette dominated by greyish blues and muted greens to soften the impact of a difficult subject for young children. When he does use an eye-catching colour, it is to draw attention to the source of Scott’s bravery – first it is the subtle red of Buttons’ shirt (when the teddy helps Scott to feel brave), then it is the stronger red of Scott’s helmet (as he begins to think about being brave), then it is the fiery red of Scott in his dinosaur outfit (as he bravely stands up to Duncan). In the end, Scott is a knight complete with a red jerkin, because he now wears his braveness with pride.

Brimming with positivity and practicality, A Boy, his Bear and a Bully will inspire all youngsters who are intimidated by others to take back their power in a productive way. From this position of strength, a hopeful prospect can be easily perceived.

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