Categories
Book Reviews

Max’s Bear : Barbro Lindgren & Eva Eriksson

Max's BearMax’s Bear by Barbro Lindgren

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The board book is an odd beast and one that it’s very easy to get wrong. They’re books that revel less in the text and more in the experience; of the pushing, the pulling, the chewing and the tasting. Board books are the books that teach you what reading is; that it happens in the crook of your mother’s arms, or at bedtime, and they teach you that this experience is good and that it is fun. They are the guidelines of the bookish world, robust and stubbornly built things that teach little ones about the world around them whilst also surviving that phase of interaction with said little one.

I love Max’s Bear; part of the Max series by Barbro Lindgren. I’ve reviewed Max’s Wagon beforehand, and Max’s Bear is a similarly glorious thing. So is Max’s Bath, by the way, and I would happily recommend a set of these being purchased as an early reading present. They are classy, classy books; rich too, in that quiet and subtle way, and a genuine delight. Sometimes board books can border on the edge of impracticality; clever paper folds and tricks that won’t last a moment, or garish and poorly constructed storytelling that’s done with very little skill. These books are lovely, lovely things.

Max’s Bear is a simple, clean story that is well told. Each double page has text on the left; a sentence on a simple white page (the longest in the book is six words), accompanied by a dreamy image on the right hand side. As ever with good picture books, the images give so, so much to long and leisurely investigation.

At the start of the book, Max is asleep. Upon being woken by his dog, Max produces his bear and starts to play with it. Underneath his bed, Max’s dog starts to chew on shoes in a contented distraction. The dog climbs into Max’s bed. Max throws the bear up in the air, and it lands in his potty. The dog realises that something’s gone wrong, gets off the bed and rescues the bear before bringing him back to Max. Happiness is restored.

It is lovely.

View all my reviews

Categories
Book Reviews

Max’s Wagon : Barbro Lindgren & Eva Eriksson

Max's WagonMax’s Wagon by Barbro Lindgren

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t review that many board books. A lot of this is due to the fact that they’re just not really things that come across my radar. Some of this is due to the fact that they’re always fairly well beaten up in any library (and this is a good sign, trust me, because they’re being heavily used) and also because I’ve never seen much space in the books to *allow* me to review them. Picture books, yes, they’re full of space – but board books? They’re complex beasts; texts designed more to engage a child with the *idea* of literacy than literacy itself (which is something, by the way, that I shall be writing about in the future). I find them fascinating but I never really found them reviewable.

“Max’s car goes in the wagon”

Until now.

(She says, dramatically).

Max’s Wagon is an utter joy. It’s probably the most perfect board book I’ve ever read. I picked up whilst shelving one day and flicked through with vague interest. This vague interest of mine turned to a rapid and intense love. It’s a simple, elegant story. Max is putting things into his wagon. This includes toys and his dog; a mildly perplexed, Gromit-esque hound who obediently jumps in and then helps Max to pick up all the things that fall out of the wagons. Max’s ball gets put into the wagon, it falls out, and gets put back in. Max’s car gets put into the wagon, falls out, and gets put back in. Max’s cookie goes into the wagon, falls out …. and ?

“Dog gets the cookie /

The cookie has gone /

Where is the cookie?”

kk
kk

The last panel; a *very* innocent dog sits on the side of a wagon being carefully studies by Max who is very concerned as to where his cookie has gone. Nothing is explicit, there’s no crumbs on the dogs face but the teddy is looking right at the dog (and so’s Max, his body language is towards the dog) and so our eyeline is automatically drawn to the right hand side of the page. And the dog? Well, he’s sat there with an expression very familiar to anybody who has ever done anything that they shouldn’t have done. It’s adorable. Such a small moment but it’s so vividly drawn and constructed, the dialogue between the understated text and the understated drawing, I could bang on for hours about this panel but I won’t. Suffice to say, it’s beautiful.

“Where is the cookie?”

That little note of doubt (who ate the cookie? Where’s the cookie gone?) is such a glorious way to end this because it opens the book up to questions and dialogue and conversation. It opens up a reader to the possibility of a conversation going beyond the space of the book and that possibility is something that can be returned to and interrogated as the child grows up. It’s just perfect and I love this book so much for what it gives to the reader. Because it’s everything.

View all my reviews