Bear Was There
written and illustrated by Sally Anne Garland
reviewed by Sandy Driessens
A huge bear and a tiny mouse gazing at each other with kind, gentle eyes is a delightful image that would draw a child of any age to this lovely book by Sally Anne Garland.
‘Love is the first thing Mouse feels as he lies in the warmth of his mother’s fur’. This first sentence sets the tone for the story which, for me, could almost be a new fable. It is the story of Mouse, whose loving mother tries to teach him safety by keeping him close and warning him of the danger, she perceives, to be out past her cosy nook. As with all children, Mouse is curious, learns, grows and eventually leaves home.
His own journey has him being adventurous, taking risks and experiencing joys that perhaps his mother would never have done. ‘Then one day, Mouse meets Bear. Mouse is frightened, but what if bear is not as scary as he seems …’ Mouse discovers that fear, passed on through generations, may be unfounded.
In this fable Mouse ventures into and embraces a new understanding of ‘True friends come in all sizes and colours’.
With easy-to-read font, woven into the illustrations, the story flows along gently with larger font on particular words that create atmosphere as you read. The prose has a melody that reflects the gentleness of the scenes and creatures.
Garland’s illustrations, a mixture of crayon, paint and pencil in full-page spreads create the small world of Mouse and then introduce Bear, accentuating his size. The images capture the feeling of her Scottish homeland, and the scratchy images give it a pleasantly loose, free feeling with lots of movement.
I truly enjoyed this book which has so much visual appeal for readers age 3 +. It has a message that will always be relevant and could be a new tale that gives perspective to both children and their parents.
New Frontier Publishing 2020 Hardback Picture Book $24.99 Age 3 – 6 ISBN 978-1-925594-93-5