Gilbert the Great by Jane Clarke

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Gilbert the Great by Jane Clarke

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Price
Reviewed by Ruth Price
Summary: Delightful book for tots and younger book-sharers, tackling the sensitive subject of bereavement. This will prove a boon at home and in the primary classroom and will charm and comfort parents, teachers and children alike. For children 3+.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
ISBN: 978-1847383617

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Gilbert is a great white shark, best friends with Raymond the Remora. They spend nearly every moment together, but one day Gilbert wakes up and finds Raymond has gone. Gilbert gradually comes to terms with his loss with the help of his mum, makes a new friend in the process, and realises Raymond will always be with him.

I am a sucker (like poor Raymond) for a beautifully illustrated children's book which isn't afraid to tackle a difficult subject, and here is one I feel is set to be a much-loved classic. Gilbert's distress at the loss of his friend is palpable, and I defy the most hard-hearted reader to make it through this charming volume without a tearful gulp.

I enjoyed the accompanying CD, splendidly read by Dervla Kirwan, but this is a book to share. A parent can read it when a child has lost a pet, a family member, or a best friend moves away. A teacher can keep it on standby for when these situations arise in the classroom. Children and adults can enjoy the pictures – Gilbert's facial expressions as he tries to understand that his friend won't be coming back are wonderfully and minutely observed. Adults can enjoy the visual and verbal jokes, and share them with the child as they grow. I particularly enjoyed Gilbert and his mum going to look at the vast sandy seashore just as we humans relax by going to the seaside. While Gilbert is adorable, he isn't twee. He is the perfect protagonist for this story, and will have great appeal for boys.

In just seventeen pages of text, there is a world of discussion available between adult and child sharing this book, which neither belittles nor avoids the theme of loss.

I also liked the brief description the author provides for adults on sharks and remoras, which helps provide a background for any reader inspired to find out more about marine life. Who knows what future marine biologist this book may inspire?

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for providing The Bookbag with this heart-warming book for sharing. Gilbert really is great.

If you liked Gilbert the Great and want to explore serious issues with your child through books, you may like Billy Monster's Daymare by Alan Durant and Ross Collins or Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett.

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Buy Gilbert the Great by Jane Clarke at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gilbert the Great by Jane Clarke at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Gilbert the Great by Jane Clarke at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gilbert the Great by Jane Clarke at


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