All Mary (Mary Plain 2) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy

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All Mary (Mary Plain 2) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Book two in these lovely reprints of volumes concerning some unusually anthropomorphised zoo bears, but the plot of the girl one going into human society could once more seem a touch too twee – perhaps irredeemably so for a male audience.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Egmont
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781405281232

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Mary is growing up – and going out into the world. Which you might expect of a young girl in society, but this is a young girl bear in society. Still, she's finding the Ps and Qs and her manners are equally as important as our daughters would. But when she's told to be on her best behaviour and she thinks it is something to sit upon, is there any hope?

If you didn’t meet her last time then welcome to Mary and her world – that of a family of bears living in compounds in Berne as city mascots. They're loved by high- and low-class people, who forever throw titbits of food over the walls for them, but sometimes, just sometimes, they get more – namely an invite to dinner from one of their favourite humans. Mary reacts just as excitedly as you'd expect at the idea of a weekend away, learning how the two-legged people throw a party, experiencing even more modes of transport than in book one, and just having such a bizarre time of it all the book here comes out as both a longer piece and more of a piece than the linked short story feel we found before.

So Mary is in amongst humans more this time round, but without the expected consequences. Yes, she is new to plumbing and gets scalded by the hot water, but that's about it – she doesn't flood the place. She embarrasses herself, in some human eyes, by using a human bathing costume, but she doesn't really have a nemesis such as a disgruntled human neighbour. And I know I ought to consider this book on its own and not just in comparisons with Paddington, but it's very hard to do otherwise.

Similarly, there is no real response to the bears about their life in amongst humans. They never query anything about our ways, they just talk to us and we talk to them and nowhere do you get the feel of them being aware of their four-leggedness and our two-leggedness, our alienness. This blasé acceptance with no remark is just a sign of the vintage naivety on offer here. It's a touch quaint – and certainly, with Mary climbing up on to the top of a four-poster, and falling asleep in the dumb waiter lift, rather old-fashioned. Now there's very little that's wrong with being old-fashioned per se, but I did once more find an edge to this missing that would have made it more acceptable to the male audience. Looking at the illustrator's blog and seeing responses from people welcoming these 1930s books back into print they're pretty much all female – there's little evidence anywhere of boys reading them. Well this older boy has read two, and they're perfectly pleasant, warm and engaging, with some good gags, and the new illustrations get the plaudit of being deemed timeless and perfect for the occasion, but I do think the stories need a boy-friendly bit of oomph and realism about them at times to make them more universally recommendable.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

There's a completely different animal-based comedy to be had with His Royal Whiskers by Sam Gayton, when the ruler's son gets a funny feline feeling.

Buy All Mary (Mary Plain 2) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy All Mary (Mary Plain 2) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy All Mary (Mary Plain 2) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy All Mary (Mary Plain 2) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy at Amazon.com.


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