A Bear and His Boy: A picture book review

A Bear and His Boy (2007) by Sean Bryan, illustrated by Tom Murphy

A Bear and His Boy by Sean Bryan, illustrated by Tom MurphyUnlike the first two books in this series, this one is unsurprisingly about a bear who wakes up with a child attached to his head instead of the other way around. Unfortunately for Zach (the Boy), the Bear (Mack) has no time for such frivolity as he immediately tells Zach:

“I’ve got no time to slack. I’m looking at my schedule, and it is jam-packed.”

Being stuck to Mack’s back, Zach has little choice but accompanying Mack on his myriad errands as he buys slacks, and accepts a plaque, among other things. The more he sees Mack running around, the more Zach knows he has to speak up. Finally, at the end of the book, Zach reminds the bear that there is more to life than errands and schedules. Sometimes you just need to take a moment to relax. No matter how busy you are. No matter who is attached to whom.

Like the previous installments in this series, the entire novel is written in rhyme which creates a lot of fun combinations throughout the story (flapjacks and slacks are my two favorites). Once again this story is just different enough to keep the premise fresh and unique.

The story again ends with a reference to a new character, this time Mack’s friend: A giraffe named Ned with a girl on his head which, I can only hope, means this dynamic duo will have a new installment out soon.

A Boy and His Bunny: A Picture Book Review

A Boy and His Bunny (2005) by Sean Bryan, illustrated by Tom Murphy

A Boy and His Bunny by Sean Bryan, illustrated by Tom MurphyI have finally read the prequel and sequel to A Girl and Her Gator by Sean Bryan and Tom Murphy. Having read the entire trilogy (perhaps with more to come), I feel like my life is complete. These are some of my most favorite picture books of all time.

The genius started in 2005 with A Boy and His Bunny when a boy woke up with a bunny on his head. Boy and Bunny decided to roll with it. Stranger things had probably happened somewhere so why get upset over something so minor?

Boy’s mother (I call him this because unlike the other series characters, the original Boy has no name although he does take the time to name Bunny Fred) was less adaptible.

You know, I hate to tell you, but it’s got to be said. You have a great big bunny on your head!

This launches a lecture from both Boy and Fred on how rabbits peacefully coexisting on one’s head in no way limits one’s mobility or ability. You could read a book, lead an army, indeed even ride a bobsled with a bunny on your head. Thus enlightened, the mother recants and admits that Fred does look kind of cool on her son’s head.

Her opinion was immediately thrown into question, however, when Boy’s sister walked in with a small alligator on her head. (You will of course recognize my beloved Claire and Pierre from A Girl and Her Gator.)

I like these books because they are simple yet complex. The story is written and rhyme and could arguably be seen as a commentary on tolerance and the fact that different does not mean diminished. At the same time, the illustrations are presented on clean (usually white backgrounds) which makes them pop.

In terms of reading aloud, the book is large enough that the minimalist illustrations can be seen clearly. While entertaining, the text is not so dense as to bore children (or tire the reader). Really, aside from Boy not having a name–a fact that kind of made me crazy when I realized it–A Boy and His Bunny is just as entertaining as its sequel A Girl and Her Gator although the latter remains superior simply because of Claire and its general pinkness. After reading the sequel the fun continues in A Bear and His Boy.

A Girl and Her Gator: A Picture Book Review

A Girl and Her Gator by Sean Bryan, illustrated by Tom MurphyOne day a girl named Claire
gets out of bed and finds a gator in her hair.
Being reasonable, Claire asks the gator (Pierre)
to vacate her head before people stare.
To which Pierre responds “Au contrair!”
explaining why any other girl would wish for a gator in her hair.
Such is the story created by Sean Bryan and Tom Murphy
in their second book where things get topsy turvy.
Now might also be the time,
to mention that it’s written in rhyme.

Joking aside, A Girl and Her Gator (2006) by Sean Bryan, illustrated by Tom Murphy is one of my favorite picture books of all time. I found it in the library where I work last year and have been hooked ever since. I read it to coworkers, I read it to the eight-year-olds that came to my read alouds, I read it to my friends. The point being that everyone–from that wide range of ages–thought the book was great. Sean Bryan’s writing is fantastic. You wouldn’t think there are that many ways rhyme “gator” but Bryan comes up with quite a few. The story, of course, is funny as Pierre tries to explain the benefits of having a gator in her hair to Claire. But by the end of the story it also shows readers that it’s not only okay to be different, it can also be really fun. A great message that I don’t think readers can hear enough.

As amazing as Bryan’s writing is, the words only really come to life with Tom Murphy’s illustrations. The drawings have sharp outlines and simple compositions (just the basic elements needed to convey the story) which are great for younger readers because the images are easy to decipher. The illustration style also makes it great to read aloud to a group because the clean images can be “read” easily from a distance.

I haven’t worked out how to use these elements to my advantage, but I also like that the book has a definite color scheme (pink, as the cover suggests) and that it spends so much time on what attire goes best with a gator (I say “pirate wear” though the authors disagreed).

I loved this book so much that I was thrilled when I found out that there was not only a prequel (A Boy and His Bunny from 2005) but also a sequel that was published in 2007 called A Bear and His Boy.