Get ready to let your child’s imagination run wild in the colorful wilderness that fills the pages of this fantastic and touching story. Author Ben Queen (writer for Cars 2 and co-writer for Cars 3) does an amazing job of captivating readers with this creatively written adventure about friendship and overcoming challenges.
Meet Bear, a guide dog that is perfectly matched with his owner, Patrick. Patrick is completely blind and loves having Bear around to help him get through his day much faster than he could with a cane, and definitely much more enjoyably. However, things take a turn when Bear suddenly loses his vision and with that he loses his sense of worth. He fears that Patrick won’t want him anymore if he can’t be a useful guide dog to him. So he sets out on an adventure with the help of racoons living under their house to find a magical cure in the forest. Unfortunately, Bear soon discovers that racoons can’t be trusted and finds himself very lost. The story flips back and forth between Patrick trying to find Bear and Bear making friends and foes as he tries to find his way back home. Bear learns a lot about himself and that he’s capable of more than he ever thought possible through the challenges of trying to navigate an unknown world. He masters using his sense of smell, something he never knew he was good at doing because he’d never tried it to its full potential. This heartwarming story is a wonderful blend of fun fantasy and tough reality.
Illustrator Joe Todd-Stanton fills this book with whimsical details that children will love spotting as they follow along with the characters. It took me a second time reading through to fully appreciate just how many whimsical elements are floating around. This adds a lot of amusement and depth to the reading experience. Additionally, the dramatic use of lighting gives the reader a bigger sense of the character’s emotions. In the darker scenes where Bear is lost, alone and scared we have a single spotlight illuminating him, highlighting just how alone he is. When Bear is losing his vision we see the panels become more and more smudged with blackness until everything is gone. Todd-Stanton is a master of evoking emotion in his artwork, yet he manages to keep it all in a simple cartoon style that all kids will love.
Ben Queen did a lot of research to accurately portray what it would be like to suddenly lose your vision and what you could do to cope with it. Including an interview with visual artist John Bramblitt who described losing your sight as, “We think our eyes are where our sight comes from, but the eyes are just sending chemical and electrical responses back and it’s the brain that is actually making the images. So, whenever you lose your eyesight, your brain is still sort of like in dream mode, it’s still putting up images.” You can see how influential Bramblitt’s words were as you experience Bear’s mind adjusting to relying on memories and other senses to understand the world.
A wonderful children’s story. The publisher recommends it for ages five through eight, but I absolutely think that middle school aged children would get just as much enjoyment from it. I highly recommend adding this book to your collection.
By Ben Queen
Art by Joe Todd-Stanton
Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 5-8
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)