Mostly Mary (Mary Plain 1) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy

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Mostly Mary (Mary Plain 1) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A charming opening to what became a long-standing and much-loved series of adventures for a girlie little Swiss bear. These new editions have all the qualities to make them the definitive ones.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Egmont
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781405281225

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Meet Mary Plain. She's a bear, living in a pit in the Swiss city of Berne, and bears have been there as a tradition for centuries. She's not been there long, for she's just an exuberant, slightly stroppy and definitely naïve, little cub, trying to catch up to her two slightly-older cousins, loving life with her aunt and uncle, and the generations above them. She's got a lot to learn about life, however – from how snow and ice change her world to what sitting on sticky paint can mean. Oh the innocence of little tykes – such as these books were written for.

And as luck would have it, the word 'tyke' was already around when Mary first hit the shelves, even though that was in this case 1930. This was the first in fourteen books in the series, and the current releases, with new illustrations and repackaging courtesy of Egmont, have a schedule at time of writing of arriving in pairs. My copy was both lively and lovely – firm hardback, with a surprise message under the slip jacket, glitzy and pretty, and the illustrations imbued charm. As did, to some extent, the writing.

What I found here certainly didn't seem dated, or too old-fashioned. So I was left wondering why these books have been much ignored at the expense of a certain other bear. Is there really a bias against female authors? Does her Welsh name hinder sales? Is it the fact that the human characters are cameos here, and the bears mostly mingle amongst themselves, that means Mary was less popular than Paddington? Both are orphans. Both come to the reader in warm writing, that is perfectly easy to follow – once you've got your head around which bear is which here. The linked short story fashion of their drama is just as good, and the mild slapstick and inconsequential fun of it all is no different.

I think if anything there is something behind my declaration of this book being pretty – I can only imagine a slight favouring of this book towards the female reader. The girly peach and gold cover isn't really on the butch side, and I can imagine the male reader less accepting than his sister at how babies just arrive without the relevant partners on the bear family tree. Our illustrator attests to how her mother had them read to her, and the family tradition is probably in its fourth or fifth generation now. Which is my final point – while one gender may prefer these books, they certainly have a quality that makes the right family keep and keep reading them as family heirlooms. Chances are you'll be in one of those right families.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Me and Mister P by Maria Farrer and Daniel Rieley has definitely the best new bear in junior fiction for many a year.

Buy Mostly Mary (Mary Plain 1) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mostly Mary (Mary Plain 1) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Mostly Mary (Mary Plain 1) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mostly Mary (Mary Plain 1) by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy at Amazon.com.


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