By Rati Girish
Boy, Bear is part of the Hook Book series published by Duckbill, a children’s imprint under Penguin Random House India. As the title suggests, this book is about a boy, his father, and their dancing bear. The father, a street performer, teaches the bear to dance to earn a living. Years pass as the boy observes his father and the bear at work, but never intervenes. One day, tragedy strikes and boy and bear are left to fend for each other. A new relationship develops as one caretaker dies and another takes his place. In a surprise turn of events, boy makes a decision that will change his life and bear’s, forever.
What struck me instantly was the sensitive way in which the author, Adithi Rao has told the story. Instances which might have made readers cringe, take a moral stand, or feel sad about animal performers have been written with a light touch, allowing young readers to mull over the situation instead of imposing opinions on them. The story has virtually no dialogues and even the characters are drawn without visible mouths. However the nuanced illustrations by Aaryama Somayaji fill this space by bringing out the size difference between the characters and the depth of their expressions. The book is an excellent way to talk to children about animals in entertainment. My son and I spoke at length about whether animals can feel emotions as humans do.
Definitely a great early chapter book to have on your bookshelf!