Archie and the Bear
Little Hare, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRp $A24.99
Archie loves being a bear but people just see his as a boy in a bear suit. Strong-willed, determined and frustrated that people don’t believe him, Archie runs away to the forest where he meets a bear who is all about being a boy. When Archie comments on the bear’s boy suit the bear growls at him that he is a boy not a bear, and instantly there is a bond between them. Sharing the things they love like honey sandwiches, fishing and reading they support each other until darkness falls and the night grows cold and suddenly it’s better to be who you really are.
Mackintosh’s illustrations bring each identity to life using scale to show not just the physical relationships but also the emotional ones. And despite being so small, even just a speck in some pictures, Archie’s will remains strong and large saying much about physical size and shape not defining us as people.
This is a quirky, original story about being true to yourself that will open up all sorts of discussions about imagination, self-belief and friendships. Even though adults might not see Archie as a bear, young readers will get it as the author has climbed into their thinking and they will relate to it. Sometimes it’s not enough to be a powerless little boy in an adult-dominated world.
Discussions may even wander into the field of how each living thing has adapted to its environment, each with its own special needs met within it, and why the ending was inevitable.
Unusual but intriguing.