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4.2 out of 5 stars
A Boy and a Bear in a Boat
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Having just finished reading this book I felt compelled to find out what other people made of it while hoping that they all enjoyed the adventure as much as I did. Upon discovering at the time of writing that there was just one Amazon review of the book, I was saddened.

While aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 12, this book can and should be read at any age. While I can't say that I am a regular reader of kid's fiction, it was the books curious cover that first caught my attention and peaked my interest to the point that I had to pick it up and read about it. The synopsis grabbed me immediately and as I flicked through the pages glimpsing the wonderful illustrations I was sold.

The story is as basic as the title suggests: A Boy and a Bear set off in a Boat and this is what happens next.

The Bear is the little boat's Captain, and the Boy is the passenger. What was supposed to be a simple journey "to the other side" soon turns into a grand marine adventure lasting weeks at sea. During this time, the pair find themselves working together battling hunger, dangerous creatures, "unforeseeable anomalies" and, indeed, themselves, all while killing time playing the same games and reading the same things over and over and over again.

Dave Shelton's characterisations are lovingly and believably brought to life. The boy is a normal young lad, impatient, easily bored, fidgety, and lacks full control of his emotions sometimes doing the opposite of what his mind tells him to. The Bear on the other hand is much more reserved and calm with a patience mastered only through his times at sea, and his gruff, sometimes threatening exterior is contradicted by his surprising sensitivity to the Boy's immature outbursts.

Perhaps the most surprising character in the story, and the only one of the three to have a known name, is the Boat itself, Harriet. The Harriet is conveyed charmingly through it's history. Filled with bits and bobs left by other passengers on previous journeys, packed neatly yet forcefully under the seats, the boat's contents become life savers at points. The Bear's own attachment to "her" is always obvious through his maintenance and there are times where you, the reader, get concerns for it's safety.

Scattered regularly throughout the book are the author's accompanying illustrations, all of which are an absolute delight. Every so often we are also treated to a double page colour illustration that are nothing short of dazzling. I want Dave Shelton to illustrate all children's books from now on, thank you.

Every once in a while a book comes along that you just can't help but love. I keep very few books once I've read them, and this is a keeper. As I read, I got completely caught up from first meeting the characters, being enlightened as to what the book cover signifies, straight to the story's unexpected and surprising conclusion. By the end I was quite simply lost for words to describe how I felt about it. It is for this reason (and many others) that this book has a permanent place on my bookshelf.

Here's hoping for a Major Animation Movie release!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2013
I was a children's bookseller for a well known chain of high street bookshops, and when this little hardback first came into store with its plain blue cover, I was intrigued. No garish colours, no cartoons, just a blue slipcover with a tea/coffe stain. I kept picking it up, wondering how it could appeal to a 5 - 8 year old (the category in which it was placed), and how I could possibly sell it. I borrowed it, took it home and read it, and haven't stopped thinking of it since (two years later!). I really wanted to hear other people's opinions, because, to me, there is so much more going on - is the boat, Harriet, named for the boy's Mother? Has she died, and the bear is the Father, captaining the boy to safety? In which case, is he a terrible cook (the sandwich) and a terrible conversationalist? Is the thought of Harriet the only thing they can cling to when everything seems lost? I'll never know, but it is a very lovely, beautifully written book, with superb illustrations. Read it: it won't disappoint.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2012
Everything about this book is a joy. The cover is a work of genius, the illustrations are perfect, and the story is wonderful. I love ebooks, but volumes like this are a genuine pleasure to hold in your hand. As for the story - the titular boy sets off in the boat with its captain, a bear. What should have been a short journey (whither and whence, we are never told) turns into both adventure and misadventure, with shipwrecks and seamonsters, dodgy sandwiches and endless games of I Spy. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2012
You can judge this book by its cover for both inside and out are witty, deceptively simple and charming.

The title tells all for it is from beginning to end about a boy and a bear in a boat. It's also about growing up, trust, parenting, optimism and all sorts of others things I probably won't realise until I have read it a few more times. I've cherished Richard Bach's Illusions for most of my life and I class this alongside it. I know I'll be recommending it to friends and rereading it myself again and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2012
I had a read very generous reviews of this book and was intrigued when I saw the cover in my library, thinking it might be an adult book as much as a childrens book.After reading it I think it is really a childrens book, and defined by it's pace and slow passages of explanation that have wit and the use of 'anomaly' that might explain the nature of the book. I suspected it might become an ecological tale but was relieved when it didn't. It is a good tale of the trials and tribulations of making a relationship, with a brave ending, but unfortunately not up to the publishers claims like many books. Enjoyable, a good read for holidays or with kids on a sea journey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2013
It wasn't terrible - the characters and the writing are good, not great but I kept expecting there to be a point and there simply wasn't. I was looking for a deeper meaning and an unexpected twist but got neither. It just went on. It was the first book of this duration that we've read with our son and I'm now slightly afraid he'll think all long books are boring books. I suppose it's bold and different which is to be applauded but it's hardly a 5-star book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2015
lovely gentle story. beautiful illustrations. I've heard it described as Beckett for kids but I think that makes it sound weirder than it is. I think its just that its a story where not much happens but in a really brilliant way. For me its about parent child relationships and understands that sense that kids think parents know what they're doing and parents pretend that they know what they are doing but none of us really know where we're going.
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This is a charmingly surreal story which is about exactly what the book title says, a boy and a bear in a boat. The boy appears one day and embarks on a journey in the rowing boat Harriet, alongside the bear who is the captain. It is never explained how the boy got there, or where he is going, and this air of mystery persists through the entire book. As they journey on through the endless seas together the oddest adventures befall the boy and his companion. I will not spoil the charm of the book by giving any more of the story away. It is a joy to see what inventive ideas the author comes up with next. The illustrations are beautifully drawn and perfectly complement the story. This book is suitable for six year olds and up, although whether they will appreciate the whimsicality of the book or the surreal structure is questionable. It is these elements, despite the seemingly simple concept and execution of the story that also make it suitable for much, much older children.
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on 9 August 2013
I found this to be an endearing and very funny page-turner in which not much happens - other than we witness a young boy gradually bonding with a bear on a boat on a never-ending voyage. Witty and funny - and with fabulously simple illustrations - this has much to say about `getting on with it' in the most basic sense of every day life. The ending may disappoint and puzzle young readers - and some of the dry humour of the bear (not to mention the underlying 'big life themes') may go above their heads, but it's a delight to read! I should concede that there is some action in the second half of the book, which comes just in time... I'm not sure that young readers would stay the course without it.

I personally see this as a read aloud for 6-7 year-olds who will just enjoy the story for what it is... I could then see them picking it up and re-reading when older and seeing far more in it, as we adults clearly all have.
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on 11 May 2015
Just the most wonderful gentle humour absolutely adored by my son at bed time, non threatening but with some tense moments, the story of a bear & boy at sea who never really seem to get anywhere much but the conversations & decisions they make when faced with problems were absolutely hilarious, like real life, the moment one problem is solved the next appears. It is not a swashbuckler but a gentle funny observation of character & cosideration of one persons thoughts for another. My 8 year old begged to read it every night and was only mildly disappointed that there wasn't a definitive conclusion- hopefully the author will write more I can see them going on all sort of adventures, climbing mountains, searching for treasure you name it, because it is all about the relationship more than the adventure although there is adventure mostly when they are not looking for it or wanting it, just like life! MORE PLEASE MR SHELTON!
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