By Mariajo Illustrajo
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9780711277946
Review by Derek Brazell
People rushing around focused inwards on their destinations, glowing screens and whatever they are listening to on their headphones, is a familiar sight for anyone living in or travelling through a city.
Lost in this busy, unfamiliar setting polar bear can’t remember how he got there, or which way he turns for home. Everyone is too occupied to help, so bear ends up in an underground transport system following the crowd and joining a queue, resulting in being presented with a ‘bleurgh!’ Soy Latte coffee from the barista who hands the drink over without even clocking her customer!
With humour and delightful detail, Mariajo Illustrajo shows bear’s ongoing attempts to find a way back to the North Pole. The city train map offered by a distracted information assistant certainly can’t help.
The loose watercolour, expressive line and warm colour palette generate a welcoming appeal to the illustrations. A shock of ginger hair highlights the little child who is the only one who notices bear in the busy train that he finds himself on in his search to get home. An effective touch to make her stand out.
Led home by the girl and her oblivious mother (kids will be familiar with grown-ups being constantly distracted), a sweet, caring relationship develops between the child and the bear she has taken in. Although bear feels ‘found’, he realises the child isn’t going to be able to lead him home, until, that is, he spots a North Pole book on the shelf which helps the child understand where his home really should be… Incidentally, I loved Mariajo’s placing of her first picture book on the child’s bookshelf within the illustration!
Composition of the spreads leads the story through the packed city scenes to the more spacious child’s home, and finally to the wide open reaches of the bear’s home land, offering the contrasts to the spaces we can call home – a place where we’re not lost.