Book Review: Bear with Me by Max Kornell

bear with me

Bear with Me by Max Kornell

Owen had a great life before Gary showed up.  One day his parents just showed up with a big bear.  They said they had always wanted a bear.  But Owen didn’t want a bear at all.  Gary was going to sleep in Owen’s room, share Owen’s toys, and live with them as part of their family.  Now his parents were busy with Gary and Gary snored when he slept!  He even left the covers off the markers so they dried out and broke the swing in the backyard.  Owen finally had enough and went outside by himself.  Gary found him there and slowly, slowly the two of them became friends.  Perhaps having a bear join the family wasn’t as bad as Owen had thought.

Kornell writes with a wry sense of humor that works very well here.  The use of an intruding bear as a stand-in for a new sibling works well in his hands.  He keeps the text straight-forward but humorous.

The illustrations add much to the book.  They are done in an intriguing style of cut-paper that has been drawn on and then added to the scenes.  Each character is often their own cut out on a background that is one large sheet.  The lines are simple and the colors bright.  Gary is a wonderfully large bear that is completely non-threatening and looks just as worried as Owen.

Ideal for blended families or new adoptive siblings, this book has loads of appeal.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

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Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

monster calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, illustrated by Jim Kay

Released September 27, 2011.

Conor awoke at 12:07, just after midnight, from his nightmare, the one he had been having for years.  Then he realized that something was calling his name.  It was a monster, but not the monster from his dreams.  It was another monster, a monster who came walking to tell him three stories and then Conor had to tell him the fourth and final story.  And it had to be the truth.  Conor had not told anyone the truth for some time, not since his mother had first gotten sick.  Now she was worse again.  So Conor turned to the monster in the hopes that he could save her, that that was what had brought the monster walking.

Ness has created a powerful book from the final idea that Siobhan Dowd left before she died.  It is gut wrenching on so many levels.  You have a monster who is breathtakingly real, a boy who is disappearing into his mother’s illness, and a story of cancer and all of the feelings and emotions it creates and doesn’t allow to be expressed.  This is a book about the time before the loss, the anguish of the waiting, the hollowness not only inside the surviving family but around them as well, and the anger that is a part of grief too. 

Ness does not duck away from anything difficult here, rather he explores it in ways I haven’t seen before.  He takes the darkness and makes it real, makes it honest, creates truth from it and lays it all bare.  It is a book that is difficult to read but too compelling to put down.

Kay’s art runs throughout the book, framing the text.  It helps create a mood for the entire work, one of darkness and lightness too.   He plays with such darkness in his art here that it is sometimes a matter of black and blacker.  The art, done just in black and white, speaks to the power of the monster, the blaze of life, and the fragility of it as well.

I simply can’t say enough good things about this book.  It is a stunning work that truly does tribute to Siobhan Dowd’s idea.  Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

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