Bear and Rat
Stephen Michael King
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Bear and Rat are the very best of friends, there for each other no matter what. But even though Bear has proven his devotion to his friend, Rat is feeling concerned about the future.
“Bear,” said Rat, “I’ve been wondering. Will we always hold hands like this, even when we are old and wrinkly…and tottering up this hill?”
“Of course we will,” said Bear. “As long as you hold mine when my fur turns grey and starts to fall out.”
But something is clearly troubling Rat because despite all Bear’s reassurance she still feels unsettled and unsure, until she finally asks, “What if I have to leave and go somewhere you can’t come?” And Bear offers her the perfect answer, one that comforts and assures her that no matter what, they will be together one way or another forever.
This has been one of the most difficult books for me to read and review because even though it is the most delicate love story, it is based on a real story and sadly, because the author and his wife have been friends of mine for years, I knew its truth and its outcome. Also, having experienced my own Bear and Rat episodes twice in 18 months, it was all the more poignant, and to be honest, it took me some time to put on my big girl pants and read it.
But often our children need the sort of reassurance that Rat does – that regardless of what they do or say or experience, someone will be there for them through everything because real love is unconditional and enduring. Chris has captured this special, incredible relationship perfectly because he has lived it and Stephen’s illustrations with their gentle palette and lines are the perfect accompaniment, suggesting he too, knows what it is to love in this way. And as a reader, with tissues in hand, so do I.
A remarkable picture book that shows that regardless of what else we might have, to have that sort of love of another is everything.