Harper Collins Children’s Books. First published in 2015-11-12
“GRRRRR!” really is a case of a second rhyming book eclipsing a first.
Author/illustrator Rob Biddulph’s debut picture book “Blown Away” won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Luckily for me, I hadn’t read his award-winning book, so came to “GRRRRR!” with no preconceived ideas or knowledge.
As such, I was in for a wonderful surprise with his second offering but a trifle disappointed when I purchased his first on the strength of “GRRRRR!”
“Blown Away” is a sweet rhyming story but reminiscent, to my mind, of Jonathan’s Emmett and Adrian Reynolds flyaway kite book “Someone Bigger” which is one of my all-time favourite picture books.
With no similarity to any other book, “GRRRRR!” on the other hand is a wonderfully original story, full of zest, humour and tenderness in a well-developed tale of friendship and honesty. It is a perfect read for 4-6 year-olds.
The illustrations for “GRRRRR!” are stylised, bold and simplistic and the story has, in my opinion, the potential to become a classic.
It tells the tale of Fred, a super competitive bear who has won the Best Bear in the Woods contest for the past three years.
He’s a brilliant fish-catcher, hula-hooper and scarer of humans, but the thing for which he is best known is his GRRRRR-owl!
He’s on his own too, all day long, while he’s training.
There’s no time for buddies, but Fred’s not complaining.
“Who needs Jemimas or Davids or Sophies?
My friends are my prizes, my medals my trophies.”
Enter Boris. The new bear in town.
He’s entered the contest to win Fred Bear’s crown.
And it looks like he might win the day.
He’s big and he’s strong and he’s fast and he’s clever.
They say that his GRRRRR is the loudest GRRRRR ever.
Fred Bear is devastated when he finds he’s lost his GRRRRR! on the day of the competition but a helpful young owl, named Eugene, asks if he’d like help looking for it. Unable to find it, Eugene enlists his friends and volunteers to assist Fred.
And nowhere is their help needed more than when it’s time for the last round – the loudest GRRRRR.
The ending is unsurprisingly happy. Boris is unveiled as a cheat and a thief but the animals in the wood take pity on him when they hear his story.
“I’m new here, you see and I live all alone.
“I don’t really have any friends of my own.
“I hoped that if people thought I was a winner,
“Then maybe, sometimes, they might pop round for dinner.”
In spite of Boris’s dishonesty, Fred forgives him because he has come to learn there is more to life than winning and realises he is not too dissimilar to Boris.
“I think we’re both winners,” says Fred, “and what’s more
I’d like to be friends,” and he holds out a paw.
“R-really?” says Boris, who gets to his feet
And gives Fred a bear hug. Oh, isn’t that sweet.
They’ll always remember how this story ends:
That Fred lost his GRRRRR…
…but discovered his friends!
All together now: Aaaaah!