The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard
Publication Date: September 9, 2004
List Price: $16.95*
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A comic romp through Shakespeare's London featuring an intrepid little boy, a friendly bear, and-in the role of dastardly villain-the Bard himself.
What happens when a boy bursts through the curtain of a deserted theatre and onto the world's most famous stage? He lands on the Bard himself and the chase is on-through the streets of Shakespeare's London. This is a rare and inventive visual feast-a runaway story about a curious boy, a magic cloak, a grumpy bard, a captive bear and a baron bound for the chopping block. It is also a richly illustrated, dramatic and very funny tale of adventure and friendship.
Gregory Rogers won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal (the English Caldecott) for his illustrations for Way Home, published in 1994. Other books he has illustrated include Lucy's Bay and Tracks.
Bulletin, Center for Children's Books-AD This wordless picture book follows the adventures of a young boy who embarks on a surprising adventure: after happening on an old theater, he's transported to a stage in Elizabethan London. His appearance mid-performance disrupts the play and angers the playwright (who seems to be William Shakespeare), so he flees the theater and acquires a companion when he frees a caged bear; boy and bear cross the bridge to the north of the river, where they free a prisoner, the titular baron, from the Tower, and then return to the river, where they meet the queen on her royal barge and engage in a frolic. Still pursued by the playwright, the boy heads back to the now-darkened theater, where he narrowly escapes the irate Shakespeare by returning to his own time. Layouts range from comic-strip panels to double-page full-bleed spreads, with illustrations (line-and-watercolor touched with colored pencil) cinematically shifting from broad views of period London to up-close images from varied perspectives of the comically drawn characters. The book makes the most of its wordless conceit, with some repeating visual refrains (hands periodically meet in close-up) and humorous details (the heads on the Tower Bridge's spikes peer up ruefully at the ravens nesting atop them), and the London landscape is largely true to its era (though it's a bit clean)... The excitement of a visual chase may be sufficient to keep some viewers entertained, though, and this could certainly serve as an inventive component in an introduction to the Elizabethan world, especially in tandem with Mannis' THE QUEEN'S PROGRESS (BCCB 6/03). Booklist K-Gr. 2. The plot in this wordless picture book unfolds straightforwardly: a contemporary little boy kicks his soccer ball through the window of an old theater, and when he goes inside to retrieve it, he's pulled into Elizabethan London, landing right on the stage of the Globe. After an angry Shakespeare chases him into the town, the boy finds a friendly, helpful companion in a bear. Still on the run from the Bard, the pair releases a condemned prisoner from the Tower of London. Elizabeth I then appears as a minor character with whom the boy, the bear, and, eventually, the Bard interact. High on action, accurate of scene, and short on character development, the full watercolor-and-ink panels give kids around the world the chance to peek into another era while sympathizing with a contemporary, young protagonist. Australian illustrator Rogers plays with perspective in a way that will engage more sophisticated viewers, though young book browsers can easily understand the story he creates. Publishers Weekly Starred Review Australian artist Rogers's (Way Home) very funny wordless escapade, which gets even better with rereading, opens when a modern-day boy boots his soccer ball through the backstage window of an empty theater. He retrieves the ball, looks out on rows of empty seats, then tries on a blouse and red cape that he finds in the costume trunks. (There's a strange, spotlit glow about the cape.) When the ball bounces through the curtains again, the boy darts after it, tumbles into a time warp and emerges on the open-air stage of the Globe Theater. Gap-toothed, poxy groundlings hoot at his entrance, but a certain red-haired playwright trips on the ball and becomes as enraged as any Keystone Kop. Pursued by the Bard, the boy dashes outside, into a 17th-century London dotted with timbered houses and rival theaters. Here, the boy rescues a caged Bear and, hand-in-paw, the two elude the snarling Shakespeare; when they detour into a dungeon, they meet a Baron whose anxious glances at an outdoor chopping block and a guy with an axe suggest that an execution will soon occur. Rogers's sequential art and comic timing recall Quentin Blake's Clown. He uses a caricaturish style to animate the slapstick characters, while his English architecture and countryside are technically precise. London Bridge features rows of heads on stakes, and aristocrats cruise the Thames on a party barge. With its harried pace and sportive sight gags--not to mention its undignified rendering of Shakespeare--this chase comedy proves to be a bravura performance. Ages 5-9. School Library Journal Starred Review Grade 3-6–This wordless picture book adds a new twist to the Shakespeare canon for young audiences. When a boy's wayward soccer ball lands inside a theater and suddenly transports its owner through time to the Globe, the Elizabethan era comes to life. Unfortunately, the lad's sudden appearance on stage interrupts the performance, and the Bard himself, investigating the problem, suddenly slips on the ball and comes crashing down. He chases after the culprit, and the boy runs for his life. Fortunately, the mid-afternoon crowds provide much-needed camouflage from the angry playwright, and the child, after befriending a chained bear, leads his newfound grizzly companion into the Tower of London, where they free a Baron awaiting beheading. The three then embark down the Thames where they encounter the royal barge, and Elizabeth I is quite taken by the once-condemned Baron. As night descends, Shakespeare suddenly reappears, angrier than ever, and the boy and the bear barely escape with their skins. Just when all seems lost, the boy flees back to the Globe where, heading through the curtain, he finds himself once more safe and alone–in modern times. Rogers's tale shows a very human facet of the Bard–his temper. The details portrayed in the pen-and-watercolor illustrations are true to the era. The cartoon paintings vary in size from tiny renderings to full-page spreads, and they are filled with movement and expressive faces. This sophisticated romp will attract the eyes of intermediate audiences, and could serve as a good prelude to the study of Shakespeare and his times.