Deborah Abela (text) and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall (illustrator), Bear in Space, Walker Books, August 2020, 32 pp., RRP $25.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760651510
The idea for this book began when author, Deborah Abela, saw a sketch by illustrator, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall: a floating bear in a space helmet. Deborah badly wanted to write the story of this bear, and so a collaboration began. The resulting book is very pleasing indeed.
Bear is a child who is very happy reading, writing, and imagining. Poked fun at, or ignored by his companions, he relishes quiet time and develops a rich internal world, imagining himself on a journey into space. But facts are very important to Bear. He reads, takes notes, sketches. He builds a rocket he can hold, and: Blast off! Bear flew into space.
The blast-off spread, and the next, take the story to its beautiful climax. Then:
As he drifted, he read his books on space,
made plans to improve his rocket
and drank hot chocolate.
No one laughed at him.
No one called him names.
No one at all.
But soon, Bear felt lonely…
It is then that Bear sees another rocket, and Panda. They wave to each other and Bear invites her inside. A friendship begins.
In the illustrations, the bunch of little bears in this story are depicted as cuddly toys, but with all the energy and noise of pre-schoolers, with individual personalities to boot. In the school environment they dominate the page against a white background, whilst Bear plays on a starry, midnight blue patterned rug. As he makes his plans, the starry sky pallet begins to leak onto the white background, finally taking it over completely as the climax is reached.
Reviewed by Marita Thomson