Dave Shelton
(David Fickling Books)

A boy and a bear go to sea, in a small boat, looking to get to the other side. But as they set on their voyage, the other side suddenly seems much further than the boy first expected  and the sea is not quite as tranquil as the boy had first hoped. This is due, according to the bear, to “unforeseeable anomalies” which changes the course of their trip towards a daring adventure for the two unlikely heroes.

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat is an absolute gem of a book. It is a beautifully tender and enchanting story of a developing friendship between two most unlikely characters, in the most improbable of settings.
One of the aspects of the story I loved the most is that it is a boy, coming from nowhere, going on a boat with a bear, to get to the other side of  the water, and nothing more is said about it, as it the most perfectly natural thing in the world. Which I guess, in a child’s imagination, it is. Team this up with an endless blue sea, a rather limited game of “I Spy”, a glow-in-the-dark sandwich, a sea monster and a oh-so-very-British tea break complete with bone china and you have yourself an adventure. A rather unusual, whimsical adventure, I’ll grant you that, but nonetheless a heartwarming and funny one. It has all the ingredients of an old-fashioned adventure story, and feels very much like one when you are reading it. There are no gadgets here, no electronic gizmos. It has that certain innocence that is so often lacking in children’s literature, particularly for boys, today.
The story broaches many themes including friendship, hope and courage to name a few, but touches on them with lightness and wonderful humour, including some particularly funny moments and splendid repartee.

The book, as an object, is absolutely stunning. The cover itself is marvellous, complete with tea stain and worn edges and one must applaud the publisher for taking a possible risk by choosing style and beauty over a more “commercial” cover. The inside illustrations work in perfect unison with the tone of the text. The bear is particularly glorious; there something so kind and safe about his demeanour. I like Shelton’s style, also greatly admired by my son in Good Dog, Bad Dog for the DFC.

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat is wonderful début novel by Dave Shelton and one that you will want to share will little and big people alike. I can do nothing less but highly recommend it, for it is simply wonderful.

All illustrations © Dave Shelton

Thank you to the wonderful people at David Fickling Books for sending me a review copy of “A Boy and a Bear in a Boat”.

Come back tomorrow to read all about Dave Shelton’s Five Fabulous Funny Picture Books.