The Perfect Bear by Gillian Shields

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The Perfect Bear by Gillian Shields

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: An exceptionally well designed and written picture book for primary school aged children, its message about what's important (and what's not) in life tugs at the sentimental heartstrings without becoming sickly. Highly recommended.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
ISBN: 978-1416904403

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There was a girl who had a white bear, with gleaming soft fur and a magic key that makes him sing a song. The bear is somewhat conceited and thinks himself perfect: so perfect in his finery that when an old pink rabbit asks him what his name is, he says it's "Do-not-touch". Alas, the girl doesn't know that: she wants to play with the bear and she takes him to the beach, to the garden and splashes him with paint when doing his picture. After a bath, the bear isn't very white nor very soft any more, and after his broken music box is taken out and stitched with black thread, he's just any old bear. The girl loves him even more - after all he's more cuddly now - but the bear can't stop grieving for his lost finery and being admired by everybody. Only when the bear is lost in a department store and realises he might not see the girl again, does he understands the true meaning of love - and now, having been reunited with the girl the empty place inside him is full of happiness.

The Perfect Bear is a story that's unashamedly sentimental and yet it doesn't become mawkish: perhaps because it's message about the importance of love (and un-importance of looks) is deeply true. Perhaps because it's narrated in a decidedly un-sentimental manner: straightforward and clear, with an elegant economy of phrase. Perhaps because of all the associations floating in the head of an adult reading such a tale, from The Little Prince to some of the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde and Andersen (though this one has a happy ending!). Whatever the reason, I thought the story was great and exceedingly well told.

The illustrations to The Perfect Bear are also outstanding: one rarely sees artwork in this style in picture books: realistic oil paintings resembling slightly blurred photos, very grown up illustrations in some ways and yet both dreamy and clear in the way childhood memories can be. I didn't actually like those illustrations that much, but somehow, they work brilliantly with the text to create an exceptional picture book that's definitely worth reading (and as I suspect most adults will shed a tear or two, I suggest reading it by yourself before reading aloud).

Highly recommended for children aged 4 to about 8.

This book was sent to the Bookbag by the publishers.

For another book with an important moral message but more humour, look at The Smartest Giant in Town and you might also like Mia's Story by Michael Foreman.

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Buy The Perfect Bear by Gillian Shields at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Perfect Bear by Gillian Shields at


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