Balthazar The Great – Book Review

By Kirsten Sims

Published by Frances Lincoln Childrens Books ISBN: 9781847809490

Review by Alice Larsson

The story of a violin-playing Polar Bear being set free from the circus in Balthazar the Great is one with a meaningful message underlying it, emphasised in part by the bizarre playfulness of the warm-hued places the chalky bear travels through.

Sims tackles what is essentially a gruesome and current subject in a whimsical way, without degrading the moral behind it , and that can be a difficult balance to achieve. Sims’ painterly illustration and the equally delicate font, encourage a reader of any age to turn the pages lightly for fear of smudging them.

This is a book that keeps on giving to a younger reader, through the new tiny details discovered every time the book is read. Glasses, scarves, instruments and swimming trunks – each character is different.

The layering of textures and maps help to enliven the book, without over crowding the mind of a child. If anything for an older reader, the rough strokes and subtle layering tempt you to open your watercolours again.

Finishing the story with a family reunion makes this an easy choice for bed time reading, inviting children to dream about an arctic filled with polar bears – something we’d all like to see come true. Kirsten Sims’ dedication sums it up: ’To my parents for teaching me to appreciate animals in their natural habitat’.


29th January 2018

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