Review Blog

May 27 2010

The great bear by Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder

cover image

Walker Books, 2010. ISBN 9781921529696.
(Ages 5+) Highly recommended. First published in 1999, this classic picture book is wonderful and deserves the awards it has won: Winner of the Bologna Ragazzi, 2000, Fiction for Infants Category, and short-listed CBC Picture Book of the Year 2000. The circus bear spends her miserable days in a cage with a cold stone floor, and at night she performs for the crowd, some of which cheer for her while others throw stones and jeer as she dances for them.  One day she seizes a pole and soars to the stars.
Beautifully crafted by Libby Gleeson, the story of the bear's plight totally engrossed me as I read the story. I was kept on the edge of my seat wondering how the bear could possibly escape its horrible captivity and the image of it reaching for the stars is very memorable.
Greder's illustrations are superb and bring an extraordinary depth to the narrative. Some, like the beautiful starry night, pay tribute to the masters, while others bring all the greed and obsessiveness of human nature to life.
I was fortunate to listen to Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder speak about the creation of this heart-rending tale. Details at the back of the book give details about the author and illustrator. Libby's dream about the story, which she writes about at the back of the book, is explained, and Greder's explanation of the conclusion of the book is fascinating.
Pat Pledger

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