Walker Books Australia (2013)
ISBN 978 1 921977 90 9 (hbk.)
Reviewed by Pearl Maya
Megumi and the Bear is a beautifully illustrated picture book for young readers.
Craig Phillips has produced some marvellous images that conjure the landscape, the story and most of all, the characters in a way that is inviting and evoking. He has a special ability to highlight emotion.
The story itself is puzzling and after searching for an appropriate descriptor I have decided on “unresolved”.
The basic storyline is: Megumi is a small girl who meets and befriends a bear cub. The become friends and spend many days at play. The one day the bear doesn’t come – and doesn’t come for a long time (about six months if you follow the timeline of the images). Then the bear comes back.
The unresolved component is that there is no explanation for the absence (it wasn’t to hibernate say) or for the reappearance.
We follow Megumi through her sadness at his absence until finally she is at the point where her grief has dissipated and her life begins again. And then the bear comes back and the story ends.
I am not sure how a small child would interpret this as a story. Nor am I sure how it would make them feel if something similar had happened in their life – say a parent leaving home, or someone dying (if they don’t have an understanding of what death is).
The book is beautifully illustrated but the storyline is puzzling.