Last year the wonderfully talented illustrator Jim Field was putting out little teaser pictures from this book on Twitter, and from these alone I decided I needed to get it. I was expecting another one of Jim’s marvellous picture books, so what a surprise it was, a pleasant one, to find it was actually something a little bit different, a shorter novel for younger readers.
This is Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits written by Julian Gough, illustrated by Jim Field and published by Hodder Children’s.
Bear is a gentle soul, she sees the positive in everything, even when all her favourite foods are stolen from right under her nose. Poor Bear is forced awake early from her hibernation, so, making the best of it, she builds a snowman. Enter Rabbit, the opposite of Bear in every way, grumpy, argumentative and a bit of a smarty pants actually. As Rabbit dictates to poor Bear on how best to build a snowman, in bounds Wolf, with only ONE thing on his mind, Rabbit pie! Bear must use all her beary skills to help save her unlikely new friend.
Julian Gough has written the perfect book for emerging readers. It’s not patronising, or too simple to read, it plays with the rules of language (such as using capital letters as emphasis) to open up much discussion with children about creative writing and when it’s okay to, well, be creative! The text is packed with character, it’s a joy to read aloud, there’s so much room to play about with voices and expression. Something which I find lacking in some younger reader books. There are little scientific explanations throughout in for extra interest and education, which fit in beautifully with the flow of the story.
But best of all, is the humour!
There is a quote on the front of this book by the wonderful Neil Gaiman
“A laugh-out-loud story.”
I can’t honestly sum it up any better than that. If this book doesn’t make you laugh out loud, then there is something seriously wrong with your funny bone. The humour is so perfectly handled that it will make children and adults alike laugh equally as hard. My favourite part, is when Rabbit eats a little bit of his own poo (hence the book title). The ensuing conversation between himself and Bear is so brilliantly dry, I will never tire of reading it! Never!
Of course Julian Gough, like the pro writer he is, has excelled himself on Rabbit & Bear, yet Jim Field’s illustrations are equally important in bringing the other element of brilliant. Black and white illustrations, backed by a cool ice blue colour give a lovely cold and wintery feel to the story. But what Jim does best is expression. Big, lumbering Bear with her sweet and always slightly concerned face makes you want to hug her. Then there’s Rabbit, cheeky, short-tempered, know-it-all that he is, seems to cycle through every expression going. Even the stolen dead fish of Bear’s seems to have a character all of its own! This is seriously, seriously good.
The balance of text and illustration is perfectly done so that young children (and adults too) will be kept engaged and interested throughout.
I would not want to, and could not, find fault with this fantastically funny, frantic and unique book. The first of what hopes to be a plentiful and hugely successful series of books!
Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits is available to buy now, from all good book shops. The next installment The Pest in the Nest is coming soon!
To find out more about author Julian Gough do visit his lovely little internet corner:
And why not pop round to Jim Field’s place for a quick cuppa and some beautiful illustrations:
Thank you for reading this rather snowy Book Monster review.