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A Boy and A Bear in a Boat

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Overview

A boy and a bear go to sea, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book, and a ukulele. The bear assures the boy that they are traveling a short distance and it really shouldn't take very long. But then they encounter "unforeseeable anomalies": turbulent stormy seas! a terrifying sea monster! and the rank remains of The Very Last Sandwich. The odds are pitted against the boy and the bear and their boat.

Will the Harriet, their trusted vessel, withstand the violent lashings of the ...

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A Boy and A Bear in a Boat

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Overview

A boy and a bear go to sea, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book, and a ukulele. The bear assures the boy that they are traveling a short distance and it really shouldn't take very long. But then they encounter "unforeseeable anomalies": turbulent stormy seas! a terrifying sea monster! and the rank remains of The Very Last Sandwich. The odds are pitted against the boy and the bear and their boat.

Will the Harriet, their trusted vessel, withstand the violent lashings of the salty waves? And will anyone ever answer their message in a bottle?

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Elizabeth Fronk
A boy takes a ride on a boat with a bear as the captain. The boy wishes to travel to the "other side," which appears a reasonable request. The boy begins wondering if the other side is as close as he thought; he observes that he cannot even see it from here. After a nap, the boy awakens and only sees sea and sky; the boy's confidence fades when he sees the bear consult an old map. In due time, the sea journey reveals a sea monster and an abandoned ship which may be a source of rescue. The boy comes to view the bear captain differently, and the ending implies that more adventures are possible. However, in spite of clever illustrations and some sly wit, the British vocabulary and long stretches of little activity may discourage middle school readers for whom it was written. The illustrations convey much of the humor and save this book. The book may have been more lively if the illustrations had outnumbered the text, as they do in Brian Selznick's books. Middle school readers, particular serious boys, and beginning chapter book readers may find this an amusing quest or appreciate the droll humor. Reviewer: Elizabeth Fronk
Kirkus Reviews
This ocean adventure reads fast and clever but remains what it says on the jacket. Without backstory, identities or context to moor the boy or the bear to the rest of the world, off floats the story on its own. At first, the sly abstruseness in Shelton's witty prose is intriguing, even exciting. A boy steps into a rowboat. The rower, a bear, asks "Where to?" The boy waves his hand "vaguely out across the water" and answers, "Just over to the other side, please." A mystery! But clearly there's another "side," a place "where he was going," even if its distance is farther than expected: "I thought you'd be able to see it [from here]." The diction is unflaggingly clean and clear, droll and mischievous ("A boringly gentle breeze thought about blowing, but decided in the end not to bother"). However, despite storms, sea-monster hazards and an ever-shifting bear/boy dynamic, this book never feels complete. There's no journey's end, nor disclosure of destination; hunger somehow becomes a conquerable philosophical challenge: "[H]is hunger had been there for so long that… [i]t was normal now and he didn't really notice it." Whatever the message--overcoming obstacles? staying at sea forever? overcoming the need for… food?--this is more allegory than any story form with closure. Diverting but unanchored, this is training wheels for Waiting for Godot. (Fable. 8-12)
Publishers Weekly
The phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” encapsulates the viewpoint and placid tone of this quietly comedic adventure in which an unnamed boy and bear traverse the open sea in a rowboat and form an unlikely friendship. For British author/illustrator Shelton, it’s all about the journey: neither the intended destination nor the reason for the trip is specified. The boy simply climbs into the bear’s boat, asks for a ride “Just over to the other side, please,” and off they go. Days later, they’re still at it, with nothing but sea and sky in sight. The essential tension comes from the relationship between the two as they face such challenges as storms, hunger, and a sea monster, and alternate between irritation with and affection for each other. Shelton’s grayscale illustrations appear throughout, along with a few well-chosen color paintings, such as scenes from an inexplicable comic book the boy reads: “It seemed to be just one episode of a longer story.... There was no way of knowing what had gone on before or what would happen after.” Readers won’t miss the parallel. Ages 8–12. (June)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Booklist, March 15, 2012:
“It’s Shelton’s spare, wry storytelling that makes this book set sail...Deceptively brilliant.”

Kids' Indie Next List, Summer 2012

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385752480
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,411,008
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Born and raised in Leicester, DAVE SHELTON now lives in Cambridge. He likes comics, cricket, crosswords, and talking to cartoonists about pens. His comic strip Good Dog, Bad Dog appeared in The Guardian and in The DFC on the Fickling list in the U.K.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2012

    Ghjfb

    This is the best book ever. I keep reading it over and over and over again. This book is an adventure until the end. This was one of my favorite books of all time and I have read ALOT of books. READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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