Review: A Bear Named Bjorn
Bjorn is a bear who lives in a cave. It meets all his needs and even sports a mailbox out front where letters sometimes arrive. Bjorn is not the sort of bear to boast about his various wins in life, like his acquisition of a three-seater sofa. His responses are always considered and calm. In fact, Bjorn thinks a sofa may actually take up more room than it's worth in his tidy compact cave.This is quite the opposite to his woodland friends who think a three-seater sofa is their ticket to comfort and happiness. They quickly assume full sitting rights, which crowds the cave even more until Bjorn cannot think about the sofa without feeling unhappy. To him, the sofa is not great so he decides to give it away. After Rabbit declares that it would make an ideal woodland sofa for everyone to share, Bjorn retires to his cave without it, and is happy.
This is just one of the handful of introspective, wickedly playful chapters about Bjorn and his buddies. Through regular deliveries to his mailbox, Bjorn connects with the outside world and is inspired to replicate it with his friends. A carnival is planned involving dressing up, menu planning and choosing music to dance to, just as the humans do. Everything they need is procured from their surroundings (and thoughtfully replaced once the event is over).
Other days, Bjorn does nothing at all, because nothing much happens other than eating, napping, counting stars and playing cards with Rabbit. After days like that, Bjorn can't wait to start over again tomorrow. Another reflective moment occurs when Bjorn tries to think of the best present he can for his human penpal, Romana and again when Owl declares it's time for their annual health check ups and discovers Bjorn is in need of glasses.
Our visit with Bjorn concludes when 'it's time', the final chapter where Bjorn prepares for his winter hibernation. It's an insanely simple farewell ending on a promise that we'll meet Bjorn again in springtime.
The snippets of Bjorn's life that we are privy to somehow transcend the mundanity of life and leave you with the type of glow that warms for days. This delightfully illustrated French picture book, examines the notions of mindfulness, friendship and pursuing a life less complicated. It suggests that extravagances do not necessarily equate with joy and that it is not very hard to shift your focus to enjoy your life more. Bjorn's anthropomorphic endeavours and behaviours illustrate to children that simplicity is grand and complete.
A Bear Named Bjorn is a book for older children to treasure quietly by themselves or for adults to spend tender hours sharing with younger children. As soothing and delightful as freshly found honey.
Title: A Bear Named Bjorn
Author Illustrator: Delphine Perret
Translator: Antony Shugaar
Publisher: Gecko Press, $24.99
Publication Date: May 2020
For ages: 5 – 10
Type: Junior Fiction