We love bear stories in our home, but Ruby doesn’t. Ruby’s the one in charge of this book and she’s tired of seeing bears in books. She sets out to tell a bear-less story, but little does she know that the joke is on her.
Ruby thinks she knows the ingredients that create a good story and that doesn’t include bears; of that, she is adamant. Instead she wants to read phrases such as ‘once upon a time’ and ‘happily ever after.’ She wants pretty things, fairies, princesses, castles, funny things, exciting things, scary things, monsters and giants.
As Ruby tells her story, a fairy godmother tries very hard to eradicate any bears that try to make an appearance. Unbeknownst to Ruby and the fairy godmother (like any great stage show for kids), there is a bear in the background of the illustrations. He’s holding his finger to his lips asking readers to keep him a secret.
The bear works behind the scenes as a stage assistant to Ruby’s story: turning pages, adding water for effect and saving Princess Ruby when she finds herself in trouble.
Completely unaware and slightly ignorant, Ruby never finds out about the bear in her story. It is a special secret for the reader to keep.
Fittingly, Leila Rudge’s illustrations have a fairy-tale quality; they are gentle, whimsical, delightful, pretty and timeless.
The illustrations are crucial to the punch line of this book. They feature the pages of the story being told by Ruby, with important happenings taking place in the background. There are so many entertaining details to look out for and lots of fairytale characters to spot.
As well as being an entertaining story, No Bears offers children a springboard into discussions on what does make a good story, and a lesson in taking notice of the small details in books.
Author: Meg McKinlay
Illustrator: Leila Rudge
Publisher: Walker Books Australia, June 2011
RRP: $27.95 (aud)
Suitable for ages: 4+
Awards: Shortlisted for CBCA’s Picture Book of the Year 2012 and shortlisted for CBCA’s Early Childhood Book of the Year 2012.