Bear and Rat (Christopher Cheng, illus by Stephen Michael King, Puffin)
This picture book is a heartwarming, tender tale of the loving relationship between two friends. The elegantly simple story in Bear and Rat holds a timeless, universal appeal with themes of love and loss, sharing similarities with Guess How Much I Love You and the classic friendship of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. Bear and Rat trek across landscapes together, hand-in-hand, even through the hardest of times. A contemplative dialogue unfolds as Rat ponders for how long the pair will hold hands: even when they are old and wrinkly and tottering up hills; during scary stories and while crossing deep rivers? Will Bear still hold Rat’s hand despite Rat doing something bad or being bed-bound for weeks and weeks? Bear’s responses, with lashings of love and care, reassure Rat, proving their bond will last beyond the times of physical closeness. Author Christopher Cheng’s language is sophisticated yet playful, conveying a strong emotional literacy. It pairs beautifully with Stephen Michael King’s sensory linework on soft, silvery watercolour backgrounds. King creates a deep warmth in his snow-capped illustrations with pops of red and yellow in Bear and Rat’s umbrellas and throughout their journey, hand in hand. Bear and Rat is an exquisitely poignant story of unconditional love, so outstandingly gripping that children from birth will keep it close in their hearts forever.
Romi Sharp is a picture book writer and digital marketer for children’s authors and publishers.