Sunday, 30 June 2013

Children's Classics: Can't You Sleep Little Bear

One of my great loves is books. That sounds hyperbolic but it's true; it is a great, huge love and has been ever since I was a child. Books we read when we are young definitely have an affect on us, whether we know it or not, even if it is just a prod of the imagination or the soothing of a troubled soul.

The word 'classic' is bandied around a lot when it comes to books but I think it is deserved in many cases, I'm going to start regularly posting about a book I consider a children's classic. Don't ask me how often, probably just when I feel like it, but there're so many out there that I think it should keep me going for quite some time.

The first book I'm going to review (it's not really a review but I don't know what else to call it) definitely deserves the term classic and has become a go-to book for any parent of a child reluctant to sleep.

Can't You Sleep Little Bear? Image via Walker Books
Can't You Sleep Little Bear by Matin Waddell and Barbara Firth tells the story of the small bear who, you guessed it, can't get to sleep because he's frightened of the dark. The disparing Big Bear brings him lantern after lantern until he finally shows Little bear that there's no reason to be afraid of the dark at all.

There are simple reasons why this book has become so popular; it connects with a common fear, it has a formulaic structure common in children's books where something is increased as the book goes on, and it has bears in it, which everyone loves.

But it could so easily have been overly twee, with the cuddly bears and the optimistic message, yet it bypasses this with the simplicity of Martin Waddell's language and the realism of Barbara Firth's illustrations. You can feel the exasperation of Big Bear, which many parents can identify with. Plus, children can see themselves in the overly energetic Little Bear doing handstands on the bed.

It manages to be touching, haunting, yet simple and with a satisfying ending that warms you up like a big round moon.

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