Rabbit & Bear The Pest in the Nest
Julian Gough and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
After the first wonderful Rabbit & Bear book, Bear’s Bad Habits, from this duo I did wonder whether the second could possibly be as good. The answer is definitely yes, every bit as brilliant and every bit as uproarious. Here’s a sample of the delights of the dialogue:
‘ “What?” asked Bear. “I’m angry! And I want to be calm! So I’m angry that I’m angry!” …
“Why did you kick yourself?”
“Because I’m annoyed with myself!” said Rabbit. “Because I can’t change myself”
“But you can change your thoughts,” said Bear.
“Change my thoughts? What’s wrong with them? My thoughts are PERFECT,” said Rabbit.
“But your thoughts are making you unhappy,” said Bear.
“No!” said Rabbit. “The world is making me unhappy! I must change the world … Stupid world! Change!” …
“Maybe you could just think about the world differently,” said Bear. “Maybe you could … accept it”
“Accept! Accept!” said Rabbit … “What’s accept mean?”
“Saying, well, that’s just the way it is,” said Bear. “Not try to change it.”
“No!” said Rabbit. (a creature after my own heart; don’t an awful lot of us feel like that right now with everything that’s happening around us?) Bear though, is entirely right when she tells her pal, “Your brain is getting into a fight with the World.”
As you’ll have realised – if you weren’t already aware from book 1 – these two characters are pretty much polar opposites with cantankerous Rabbit and reasonable, reasoning Bear.
What in particular though, in this tale, has made Rabbit so tetchy? Only that he’s been woken from his slumbers by a TERRIBLE noise and his place of repose (Bear’s cave) is full of light. No, it’s not thunder and lightning as he fears however, but Bear snoring and Spring sunlight illuminating the cave.
That’s just the start of things though: worse is to follow. There’s an intruder in his burrow – not the snake he feared but still not wanted …
and newcomer to the valley, Woodpecker’s ‘BANG! BANG! BANG!’ is utterly infuriating.
Thank goodness then for Bear and her words of wisdom. She has a wonderfully tempering effect on Rabbit and although he won’t, despite what he says, remain “Calm and Happy and Wise forever!” he does now at least have some coping mechanisms: for Bear’s snoring anyway “Mmm, maybe I should think about it in a Different Way. … Yes! I shall stop thinking of it as a Nasty Noise. I shall think of it instead as a nice, friendly reminder that my friend Bear is nearby.” And suddenly the sound, without changing at all, made Rabbit feel all happy and warm. (Must try that one.)
As well as so much to giggle over, Gough give his readers (as well as Rabbit) plenty to ponder upon in Bear’s philosophical musings about the manner in which they react to things: perspective is what it’s about essentially. Field’s visuals are equally sublime in the way they present both the humour and pathos in the relationship between the two main characters, and the situations they are involved in.
A brilliant read for newly independent readers, but also a great read aloud: adults will enjoy it as much as listeners I suspect.