Just in case you’d forgotten or it’s never occurred to you, never—and I mean don’t EVER—take the beloved, cuddly stuffed teddy bear away from an actual bear.
Gaëtan Dorémus’ Bear Despair, a wordless international import, shines a light on the dangers of doing so. Originally published in France as Chagrin d’ours during 2010, it will be released here in the U.S. from Enchanted Lion Books in mid-August.
And, my, it’s funny. And, as always, I love seeing what picture book creators in other countries are doing.
A slumbering bear with a cuddly purple teddy bear wakes in his forest home to find that a wolf has lifted his snuggly. The bear chases after the wolf until he very rudely just tosses the toy over the trees and into the air, far away from where they stand.
The bear’s response to such dastardly behavior? Why, he consumes the wolf, who then wails from his stomach.
(I’d bet my lunch money that Jon Klassen would approve of such revenge. Rude is rude, after all.)
The bear, we see, stands on a hill with hands on hips. He’s not, by God, going to give up his search for his snuggly, though it’s very nearly more than he can bear. (What? Sorry. Couldn’t help it.)
This continues: Evidently, the woods are full of bullies. A lion, what appears to be an eagle, and an elephant all gang up on the poor bear, finding it hysterical to keep his favorite toy, the one that allows him his sleep, from his grasp. Each, in turn, is eaten. Since the eagle flies away, though, the bear takes his eggs.
Detailed readers will notice that all the creatures in his stomach watch later as the eggs hatch. They’re straight-up bonding down there in the belly of the bear.
Fortunately, there are some sea creatures at the edge of the forest who are tender-hearted. (Or, quite possibly, terrified of the bear’s wrath. Or perhaps both.)
Also, à la Pierre, out pop all the animals at the end, escaping the bear’s digestion.
Evidently, Dorémus is around my age (*cough* right around forty-ISH *cough*) and has illustrated over 20 books for children. That’s not a bad track record, and if his others are as visually-arresting as this one, I’d love to track them down.
I’m glad to have spreads to share today so that, instead of stumbling over my words to describe the art, you can see for yourself. The humor here is in the great pathos: The middle spread, not pictured in this post, depicts the poor bear, after the eagle has flown off with his bear to Heaven Only Knows Where, sitting on a mountaintop with rain barreling down on him, as he moans and wails for his toy. (Yes, it’s sad and certainly something to which children can relate — but funny in the over-the-top melodrama.)
This is another title in Enchanted Lion’s Story Without Words series (think Béatrice Rodriguez’s wonderful trilogy, as well as Arthur Geisert’s books, featured here, as well as in a few other spots, at 7-Imp), and these are a delight, I must say. These very wide, horizontal picture books keep us picture-book lovers on our toes, giving us insight into what makes European author/illustrators tick. I love it …
… as much as bear loves his favorite stuffed animal. Or maybe not? Because, clearly, this is a love difficult to rival.
BEAR DESPAIR. First American edition copyright © 2012 by Enchanted Lion Books. Illustrations reproduced with permission of the publisher.