Fiction  > Contemporary  > Other by A to Z  > # - C

A Boy And A Bear In A Boat

A Boy And A Bear In A Boat

A Boy And A Bear In A Boat back

Dave Shelton


Page 45 Review by Stephen

“These tides are really weird,” said the boy. “It’s not like this at Cromer.”

A young boy hops on board a boat bobbing on the water and captained by a bear. He asks to be taken to the other side.

“Right you are,” said the bear.

He’s as confident as the lad is vague, neatly setting the scene for nearly three hundred pages of magically illustrated mirth as the pair find themselves all at sea and struggling to land either a fish or themselves.

It’s a book about learning to keep friends and friendship afloat in the wake of adversity – and in the wake of absurdity too. Faith, confidence and improvisation: pulling together instead of falling out and, as a consequence, falling apart. Thinking of others instead of yourself and jollying each other along!

Shelton manages all of the above with a touch as gentle as the giant of a bear’s. With little land in sight throughout the entire book, he nails the boy’s cross-patch frustration at the bear’s evasive optimism, and then the boy’s petulance and remorse. Oh, how we find it difficult to apologise! It’s also a book written by a man whose childhood was spent a long time before videogames and other portable distractions or in-flight entertainment.

“Are we nearly there yet?” said the boy.
“We are well on our way,” said the bear.

And that’s just page fifteen. There’s so much more you will recognise from childhood, like the fun to be had on a bright summer’s day, messing about colours and the light behind closed eyelids. “He liked the greeny blue the best, but it was difficult to hold on to for long.” I myself bounced spectral amoebas up and down my eyelids all day long. Still unsure if they existed.

With limited resources our duo try their hands at fishing, first with a fly (oh, all right, a tuft of the poor bear’s fur plucked while his bottom was turned), then with live bait and then – oh, dear – they really are going to bite off more than they can chew! Here they’re down to one last sarnie, and the bear’s previous combos (sprout and honey; anchovy, banana and custard; broccoli, sherbet and gooseberry) have been eccentric at best.

The boy looked at the proffered sandwich. He noticed that the bear was holding it rather gingerly in the tips of two claws and right at the corner. Despite this, the bread did not bend at all. The boy looked up at the bear. He looked back at the sandwich. It was very difficult to tell what colour it was by moonlight, but whatever colour it was didn’t seem right.
“What’s in it?” said the boy again.
“I can’t remember,” said the bear.
“Well, open it up and take a look,” said the boy.
“I can’t,” said the bear. “It’s stuck.”
The boy looked up at the bear. The bear smiled thinly down at the boy. They both looked back at the sandwich.
“Is it…” said the boy.
“What?” said the bear.
“Is it… only a bit, but is it… glowing?”
“No,” said the bear.
They each squinted at the sandwich and leaned in (cautiously) to look more closely.
“Hardly at all,” said the bear.

We rarely stock anything other than comics at Page 45, but this prose is a wonder and I’ll be buying it for adults instead. Plus our Dave won my heart by including a comic within and reminding us how, when we were young, we would pore over them time and time again when we had so very few, savouring their strangeness even if we hadn’t a clue what was going on. But back to the future, and the bear has it all in hand.

“Bored, eh? Well, I suppose you’d better try the complimentary on-board entertainment then,” said the bear.
“On-board entertainment?” said the boy, smiling expectantly.
“Oh yes,” said the bear. “You’ll love this.”

He really doesn’t.