Archie And The Bear by Zanni Louise & David Mackintosh
Little Hare RRP: $24.99AUD
Archie And The Bear is the totally charming new picture book from emerging author Zanni Louise, whose first book Too Busy Sleeping has been a huge success in Australia and overseas. Zanni’s gift as a writer for children is to tell her beautiful stories while honouring a child’s perspective on the world around them. From mysterious little sisters (in Too Busy Sleeping) to imaginary friends in this latest title, Zanni understands that the things we adults may find trivial or ‘pretend’ are all too real for little people discovering who they are and where they fit.
Young Archie may look like a little boy dressed up in a bear suit, but as far as Archie is concerned he IS a bear. Isn’t it just so frustrating when people don’t believe you? One day, Archie decides he’s had enough and takes off into the woods, his bear sack laden with honey sandwiches.
As the forest grows dark, Archie meets … a bear! As it turns out, the bear believes he’s a boy. Archie can see that the bear is really just wearing a boy suit, but he doesn’t want to hurt his feelings by saying so.
As they walk along the river and share their sandwiches, they strike up a mutually encouraging friendship. Sometimes all you need is for someone to believe in you.
David Mackintosh’s striking illustrations had my own little people enraptured. Archie appears minuscule beside the enormous bear; in some illustrations, he is almost just a speck in the snowy landscape – a great little ‘Where’s Archie’ activity while you’re reading along.
The symbolism of this is powerful, however, as Archie remains fierce and resolute about who he is and where he is going. Bears are not afraid of the dark, or long walks – and they’re certainly not afraid of other bears!
Archie’s giant bear friend also represents the power of the imagination to conjure (and conquer!) larger-than-life versions of our fears and our fantasies.