Review of ‘Bear in Space’
Title: ‘Bear in Space’
Author: Deborah Abela
Illustrator: Marjorie Crosby-Fairall
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Age Range: early childhood, lower primary.
Themes: friendship, difference, schools, kindergartens, imaginative play, space.
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I will always shout loudly and lovingly about the books which celebrate being your own person and ‘Bear in Space’ is a perfect example! Bear is every child I ever see in a class or group situation who is off to the side, not quite part of the action but not quite excluded either – just happy in their own space and and their own orbit.
So often as parents, caregivers and educators we hold up the ‘friendly’ kids as role models and yet, for many young people, knowing what friendly is ‘meant’ to look like doesn’t come naturally and they’d far prefer to be working out how to get to the moon. Bear is one such child. While other kids are pictured screaming around their classroom with their gang, Bear is shown outside the group, enjoying the quiet of his imaginary play…and books.
Bear read. Mostly about space. This was Bear’s favourite thing to do. There were lots of facts about space and Bear liked to repeat them to whoever would listen. Which was mostly himself.‘Bear in Space’ text by Deborah Abela, illustrations by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall
Bear has read so many books about space that he sets about designing his rocket to take him there. Bear is obviously in an excellent early childhood classroom (says the person with a degree in Early Childhood Education!) as he is able to build his rocket out of all sorts of bits and pieces, pack his hot chocolate, blanket, books and toy and set off to space – which ‘sparkled with stars and planets’. A series of gorgeous deep hued double page spreads show bear loving space (actual) and space (from people!).
No one laughed at him.‘Bear in Space’ text by Deborah Abela, illustrations by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall
No one called him names.
no one at all.
Just as dear Bear is starting to feel a teeny tiny bit lonely, he spots a small fleck in the distance and along comes…PANDA! Bear invites Panda inside his rocket and together they share stories, facts and hot chocolates. Alone time is wonderful…but so is a friend who can sit alongside you.
Oh how I adore ‘Bear in Space’. I got a little teary on my first reading of this book and instantly knew which classes I needed to read it to ASAP. The discussions with my students that have come out of ‘Bear in Space’ have been rich and wonderful and, I hope, have sparked further conversations amongst themselves. Several of my quieter students bravely owned up to being ‘a little like Bear’, while others (including myself) admitted that sometimes they needed to take note of their quiet peers, perhaps learn a thing or two from them, or just play alongside them and see what they were up to.
‘Bear in Space’ is a book for every early childhood classroom and home library. The text is gentle yet sophisticated and the illustrations are rich and warm, and every child will be able to ‘see’ themselves in them.
On second, third and twentieth readings of this book, please do guide little eyes to all the visual clues that Panda is interested in playing with Bear right from the start of the story – which leads to discussion about the different ways to make friends, invite friends into our play and/or be brave to introduce ourselves to someone we’d like to play with. Clever illustrators extend an authors text and the perfect picture books are always ones where text and illustrations work in perfect harmony. Abela and Crosby-Fairall are accomplished book creators and with ‘Bear in Space’ they have combined their talents to create one of my favourite books of the year to date. This is a relatable and timeless tale about friendship and acceptance and is going to win so many hearts and make so many young people feel ‘seen’.