Friday, 17 May 2013

Carnegie Shortlist Review – A Boy and a Bear in a Boat – Dave Shelton

Here at Space on the bookshelf we are very excited about the mounting buzz surrounding The Clip Carnegie shortlist. With less than five weeks until the announcement of the winner on the 19th June, we are reviewing each of the shortlisted books, and in many cases featuring a mini-interview with the author. As if that wasn't enough we have a great Carnegie giveaway too! 

So we kick off our Carnegie journey aptly with A Boy and a Bear in a Boat...

Dave Shelton’s book, does exactly what it says on the cover, it’s a story about ’A Boy and a Bear in a Boat’. But, how much excitement can a boy and a bear have on a tiny rowing boat you may ask? The answer is boat loads (sorry I couldn't resist!)

The story begins when the boy charters the boat and its captain the bear to take him across to the other side. As the hours aboard the tiny boat, The Harriet, turn into days and weeks, the monotony is replaced with adventure with sea monsters, storms, and even a ghost ship.

A Boy and A Bear in a Boat, is uplifting tale, that delivers action and adventure in a gentle pace with quirky humour that is enhanced by author/ illustrators Dave Shelton’s delightful illustrations. The story is essentially about friendship. The journey that the characters take as their bond is made is touching and every bit as engaging as their perils’ of their incredible journey through the vast ocean. The Bear’s undying optimism and rituals of tea drinking and eating eccentric sandwiches is magical, and is juxtaposed beautifully with the boy’s scepticism and humour.

I found ‘A Boy and a Bear in a Boat’ to be a refreshing read. A rarity in modern books, going back to the foundations of storytelling; being engaging, and entertaining without being high octane. I strongly recommend this as a book for all but in particular advanced younger readers, who can find it difficult to find age appropriate yet challenging reads.

For maximum enjoyment I recommend reading with a nice cup of tea, and maybe an anchovy, banana and custard sandwich!

Mini - One Question Interview with Dave Shelton:

Q - What is your favourite thing about your book A Boy and a Bear in a Boat?

A - The ending. It's probably the thing about the book that most divides readers (some people really don't like it at all) but I think I got it right. It's the right ending for the story I wanted to tell. I wrote it quite early on and it was very comforting to me, as I struggled and struggled with the middle, to know that there was this good place (as far as I was concerned) that I would eventually reach. I knew where I was going, even if I wasn't always sure how to get there, and that was a big help.

For a chance to win a copy of A Boy and a Bear in a Boat, and other shortlisted books, enter our Carnegie Giveaway! Just e-mail with your name and address, and 'Carnegie' in the header.


  1. Thanks Sally (and Dave). It's interesting that A Boy and a Bear in a Boat seems to be very much a book apart, with an experimental edge that doesn't appeal to everyone (my daughter in particular hated the ending!). But it's great to see some diversity in the telling of stories.

    1. It's a great read, it made me feel like I do when I read Winni-the-poo, as its so gentle, witty.

      I personally LOVED the ending, the last illustration is magical.

  2. Oh, I am intrigued now! I must get hold of this book to find out about the ending.
    Though it is probably worth buying the book for that wonderful cover illustration alone.

    1. Amanda, you'd love the illustrations throughout they're really great, I love his rainy instillations best. The Black and white work is fantastic.

  3. My (7yo) son picked this up at the Library and I wasn't sure what to expect from the cover (not the one above, the other one with the coffee cup stain). We loved it. My husband and I were fighting over who would read the next chapter with him!


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