Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Boy and a Bear In a Boat

 The American cover, the one I have

Only twice in my life have I finished a book, taken a big deep breath, and then reopened it at the first page to read again. The first book was Charlotte's Web and I was only nine or ten. I so badly wanted Charlotte to be alive again that I started the book over. And cried the second time. I almost restarted Kushiel's Dart when I finished it but regained my sanity as I stared at the 800 or 900 pages before me. On Sunday I read a book called A Boy and a Bear in a Boat. I put the book down, smiled, and instantly picked it back up to start rereading. The first reading had taken me 2 hours. The second one was shorter.

I'm not sure how to describe Dave Shelton's book. The plot, quite simply, is about a boy and a bear and the boat trip that they take together. The boy wants to cross to the other side and the bear is the captain of the boat. They set off on their journey but before long the boy realizes that they are lost. Hopelessly lost, unless you ask the Bear. He knows exactly where they are at. He even has a map (it looks like the image below). So they keep going. And from that, a number of adventures happen. They find sea monsters, The Last Sandwich, tide anomalies, and abandoned ships. It's a book with both a comic no one understands and a ukulele. It's an odd story (blissfully odd). But that's only part of it. It's a story about attitude, friendship, and the unwillingness to give up.

The UK cover, which is so perfect that I will need to find a copy, no matter what cost. 

The book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse always leaving me with an incredible feeling of peace whenever I finish it. I've read it many times over the course of my life. Always when I need to be mentally cleansed. It's a book that restarts my brain. A Boy and a Bear in a Boat might become my new cleansing book. The lessons that this book teaches are simple but I remember feeling completely changed after reading it. It's a bit story, a bit zen koan, and a bit magic. We never find out the boy's name or the bear's name. The boat is named but that's about the only character that has one. We learn what we need to know about the characters though. When I finished I loved Bear the same way I loved Charlotte all those years ago. He was a wonderful character. And the boy grew so much during the course of the book that I wanted to cheer for him. I closed this book (I won't tell you the ending) and I felt completely at peace. It's a magical book, even if I'm still trying to puzzle it out.

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