The Bear and the Little Green Thing by Diandian
Say Hello? by Sung Mi Kim
Book Reviews by Joy in Books at PaperbarkWords blog
Although very different in style and tone, these two picture books share a message about relating to others. They consider unexpected, reluctant and thwarted friendships and acquaintanceships when characters are too different to make friendship seem possible or refuse to acknowledge each other.
Both books are published by Berbay Publishing.
The Bear and the Little Green Thing by Diandian begins It started as a journey with a bird.
A flock of birds is travelling across the sky. One is carrying a seedling. During the following wordless pages that show the passage of night into day, the bird drops the plant, which we see tumbling down towards the forest before it lands on a big bear.
The bear looks as though it is about to flick it away but the sapling speaks, Wait! Don’t hurt me! I’m very sorry that I’m here without an invitation. I was travelling with a bird to a warm place, but I fell down during the journey.
The plant asks to share the bear’s body heat; promises to leave in the spring and adds that it is very helpful. It is chatty, particularly in contrast to the lumbering bear, and offers to act as a cooling fan and protective guard.
The sapling realises that the bear is alone and lonely and suggests that the bear come to find it even after it blows away in the spring. Meanwhile the barren trees are sprouting leaves.
The final illustration shows how the sapling stays in the bear’s heart. Friendship, even between those who are different, is possible and can be nurtured.
The endpapers feature the green forest trees, with one brilliant heart-warming addition to the final pages.
The illustrations in The Bear and the Little Green Thing are stylised, with the heavy, dark bear (whose eyes express emotion) dominating each page. It is shown against minimal, sparse backgrounds until late in the story, when it climbs the hill with the sapling. The book begins with land and skyscapes and eventually places the bear fully into these scenes as he softens towards the green plant.
The natural world is important. We follow the progress of the denuded forest as it develops new growth. This also represents the friendship between the bear and sapling. The restricted colour palette creates a sombre tone, implying that this is a book with an important message.
Author-illustrator Diandian was born in China and lives in Brussels. This is her debut picture book.
Say Hello? by Sung Mi Kim (translated by Clare Richards)
The question mark in the title signifies the awkwardness of an interaction when no one acknowledges the other and how it then becomes almost impossible to revive the opportunity to say hello. First impressions are important.
Told in past tense, missed opportunities to show civility become entrenched.
The Fox family had moved in next to Mr Wolf. Both young Little Fox and Mr Wolf start their day badly and so decide not to greet the other when they pass in the street. They both feel a little guilty but assume there will be other chances. Mr Wolf is distracted when Little Fox does say hello, which offends the youngster. Too late, at their next encounter, Little Fox snubs Mr Wolf. The situation worsens over time, with both wanting, but unable, to make amends.
Both are relieved when Mr Wolf moves house but, fortunately, there is a fitting resolution of sorts.
Apart from the originality and skill of the message and relationships in Say Hello?, of great interest are the pantone colours of red, blue and yellow (also the basis of colour printing). These are used to outline the two major characters and for the block colours in their faces. Close-ups show extreme emotion and add to the humour. Background scenes and other characters are delineated in black line drawings.
Sung Mi Kim is a South Korean author-illustrator.
Berbay Publishing is an Australian company producing quality picture books, often carefully sourced from overseas, each with something out of the ordinary.