Wednesday, April 22, 2015

‘Max and Bear’ (Book Review)

Many a child has initially neglected a particular toy, doll, or book only to make it a prized favorite later on. Max is no different. He wants to play with “Sophie the Giraffe” or glow-in-the-dark Turtle, but never Bear. Bear is disappointed but waits patiently for his time to come. Then one day Max gets sick, and only Bear can comfort him. Bear finally gets the love and attention he’s always wanted.

This is the story behind Max and Bear (Archway, 2014), inspired by author Pam Saxelby’s grandson and his own toy. While I liked the overall plot, I feel that the book could’ve used a few more drafts. Rather than engaging a toddler, it’s more likely to try his patience.

The story seems to move at a snail’s pace, and there were needless characters such as the gift-giving friend and the pet dogs. Cluttering the narrative were “wordy” sentences and a number of details irrelevant to anyone outside of the author’s family. I also think that talking about Max being put to bed between him eating too much avocado and him getting sick just breaks up the flow of the story. Don’t be surprised if your child completely misses the cause-and-effect connection.

As for the accompanying illustrations, Stephen Adams has made them nice and large. However, there’s too much repetition, and the object of interest is often not prominent enough for a toddler to spot immediately. The story doesn’t need to be interrupted by a game of “Where’s Sophie the Giraffe?”

In the end, Max and Bear doesn’t deliver. The paper pages are impractical for a target audience that tears up board books. And the content is unlikely to hold most children’s attention for long. While I trust that Saxelby didn’t intend to write a book that’s merely a nostalgic momento for Max’s parents and grandparents, that’s what I’m afraid it turned out to be.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book as a First Reads giveaway winner on There was no obligation to write a review.