Stephen Michael King, Rainbow Bear, Scholastic Australia, November 2018, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781742997698
There is a delightful kind of fantasy element to this book, right from the opening endpapers which, in black and white, depict animals picnicking, strolling on a hillside overlooking a city and making up the elements of a fountain. No humans are visible in the city illustrated on the title page – an illustration which cleverly hints at what is to come in the rest of the story as we see one small animal painting a canvas with rainbow colours and a rainbow arching over trees at the left-hand edge of the picture.
Bear leaves that city and returns to his snowy home with gifts from everyone, including, we see in an illustration, brightly-coloured crayons for the two cubs. Each morning after his return he wakes each morning to find himself a different colour – a colour which disappears when he has his morning swim. Eventually he works out what has happened and this is the catalyst for an exuberant family event.
The story is cleverly understated and provides a little mystery for the children of the age group for whom the book is intended. We see hints of the cubs’ activities in some of the illustrations – the drawings they’ve done while their father is swimming. The illustrations are full of movement and colour and the facial expressions of Father Bear are delightful as he tries to work out how he could wake each morning a different colour. There is loving exuberance in the illustrations which show Bear ‘turning the tables’ on his family and colouring them too and in the illustration showing them diving and splashing in the water as they clean themselves back to the correct white.
The layout is varied and adds interest with double-page spreads that are particularly appropriate for large scenes such as the one depicting a huge blue whale gliding by underneath the ice where Bear is sleeping.
This is a charming book which will be enjoyed by children – and those who read it to them.
Reviewed by Margot Hillel