Frida and Bear

Anthony Browne fans may be surprised that he is not the illustrator of this book. Instead he has collaborated with Danish illustrator Hanne Bartholin whose illustrations in this book are beautifully simple. Her Bear is a friendly, rather shy chap with soft, fluffy pencil outlines and Frida the elephant seems a little more extrovert and is outlined in pen. The colours are muted and the overall feeling is calm and quiet. The text is minimal, with all of the book’s focus on the game being played by the two characters. This game is called ‘The Shape Game’. Browne fans will recall that some years ago, when he was Children’s Laureate, he published a book with that title. It is a game that encourages communication via drawing. One person draws an abstract shape and the other person adds to it to create a picture. Towards the end, objects (paper, twigs and a shell) are used as the starting point. I gave the book to my seven-year-old nephew who read it through a few times and then said ‘I think this book is about a game where you need four things: a friend, a pencil, paper and a good imagination.’ Then we played our version of the shape game – not very successfully. He said ‘Actually, you need one more thing – you need to be able to draw!’ Very young readers will love this book. Older children might enjoy playing the shape game.