Review Blog

Sep 01 2015

The boy, the bear, the baron and the bard and other dramatic tales by Gregory Rogers

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2015. ISBN 9781760112394
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Historical, Elizabethan times, Shakespeare, Medieval knights, Wordless picture book. Gregory Roger's award winning picture books, The boy, the bear, the baron and the bard, Midsummer knight and The hero of Little Street, are offered together in one volume for his fans and devotees and will attract a new range of readers as children are introduced to these breathtaking wordless picture books.
I loved rereading them, recalling discussions with classes in the past, filling in the detail of Elizabethan England while watching the boy escape from William Shakespeare. The first story brims over with enthusiasm for that time in history and children will adore finding small images which will engender so many more questions, adding to their historical knowledge. All the trappings of Elizabethan London are there: bear baiting, the Globe Theatre and the others on the south side of The Thames, the Queen and her barge on the river, the man in the tower waiting execution, monkeys in the street, fashion, housing and so on, a whole world to enjoy as the boy escapes the Bard's chase.
And with the next story in this mesmerising volume, Midsummer knight, again held my attention, continuing the story of Bear and his foray into the castle in the middle of the forest where he rescues a queen from the dungeons and overcomes her enemies, restoring her to the throne. Again the detail is glorious; the background superb in presenting before a young audience the times of castles and knights, of queens and dungeons, of power struggles. Bear has been lured into the forest by Puck, the fairy from A Midsummer knight's dream, and so readers will love deciding to what extent this is Bear's dream.
The same boy appears in the last story, The hero of Little Street, where he plays in Trafalgar Square before going into the National Gallery. Here he falls into a Vermeer panting and lands in seventeenth century Amsterdam, where he is chased by a pack of dogs. All the excitement of the chase is there as he evades his pursuers only to have one follow him out of the painting at the end with hilarious results. The lustrous illustrations reveal Amsterdam of the times, and readers will love picking out breadth of the detail Rogers includes. Historical illustration at its best, I have enjoyed rereading them immensely and I'm sure new readers and old will as well.
Fran Knight

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