In 1995, author Libby Gleeson had a dream about a bear that escaped from cruel villagers by climbing a flagpole. She shared her dream with her illustrator friend, Armin Greder. In 1999, The Great Bear ($16.99, Candlewick Press, ages 5 and up) was published in Australia, and in 2011 was published in the U.S. It is a most unusual book in a most wonderful way. The story of a caged, dancing circus bear is brilliantly told with very few words set alongside dramatic illustrations. Artists Armin Greder uses compressed charcoal and pastels, resulting in somewhat smokey, wispy pictures that really set the tone of this story.
Anyone who has ever felt closed in – whether physically or psychologically – could really relate to this bear. It takes a bit of thought to figure out the ending. (Hint: There is a reference to a famous constellation). I found myself reading it and studying the pictures three times to soak it all in. This is a book both parents and kids alike will appreciate.
Debbie Glade reviewed today’s book.