This week’s Wednesday Words is a book we’ve been reading to Little B since he was a tiny baby and I am hoping it will become a firm favourite.
It’s the story of poor Mr Bear who can’t get to sleep and the lengths he goes to find Peace at Last!
Why I Love This Book
From the very first line “The hour was late…” you’re in the world of Mr Bear, Mrs Bear and Baby Bear. They’re all tired but only two of them are going to get any sleep!
There is a wonderful rhythm to the narrative, a plodding, nodding along that echoes the bears going upstairs to bed.
There is no rhyming, like in Room on the Broom for example, but there is repetition, which is great for carrying children along with the story. After the initial set-up with Mr Bear kept awake by his wife’s snoring each page follows a pattern.
Mr Bear gets up and goes into another room in the house, trying to find somewhere to sleep. In the first he finds Baby Bear, not asleep either! An opportunity for you to remark ‘Just like you!’ to your little one.
As he realises sleep will not be forthcoming Mr Bear says:
Oh NO! I can’t stand THIS!
And he gets up and sets off to another room.
Every time I say this line I bump up the emphasis on the ‘Oh NO’ and the ‘THIS’ and it makes Little B giggle!
The book was published in 1980 – so depending on how old you are that may seem ancient or (for oldies like me) quite recent! But the pictures have an old world charm to them that I think is very comforting. The bears are nicely rounded and cuddly but look realistic in their setting.
Every scene is lit perfectly – it’s quite a clever thing to use lighting well in hand drawings. The house in darkness with one light shining in a window is an atmospheric way to begin and I like to point out the moon and the stars, and the cat on the wall, who we meet again later.
In every page there is enough detail to occupy your child while you read the words. I am still noticing new things like the pictures of bees and boats on Baby Bear’s bedspread!
There is also a clever fuzziness to the scenes that are set at night, and if you think about it that’s how the world looks in the dark, like a low-resolution image blown up, as our eyes open to let more light in, just like the aperture on a camera.
Finally, on the opposing page, around the words are charming black and white additional drawings that add to the story, showing the bears getting ready for bed or Mr Bear moving around on his quest for sleep.
Who Is This Book For?
As I’ve said we’ve been reading this book since Little B was a baby and I am a believer in any book being suitable for babies as they will simply enjoy hearing your voice. Having said that I think 18 months on is a great time to start talking about the action on each page and from 2 years your audience will have a grasp of narrative sequence.
At the upper age range I think children will enjoy reading Peace at Last until they are five or six years old.
Jill Murphy was not an author I knew until we were given this book but many people will know her as author of The Worst Witch series. She is also an illustrator and trained at Chelsea College of Arts and Croydon Art School (just down the road from us!)
My earliest memory (my mum tells me I was two), is sitting on the kitchen floor surrounded by sheets of drawings.
Her first book was My Teddy, published in 1973 and she has now written more than thirty books! Born in 1949 in London she now lives in Cornwall, and has a son Charlie.
Keep up to date with Jill at http://www.jillmurphy.moonfruit.com/
So, does Mr Bear find Peace at Last? I’m afraid you’ll have to buy or borrow the book to find out – but there is a lovely twist in the tale, and it all ends happily with a nice cup of tea. Just what all parents need after a sleepless night!
See you next week for more Wednesday Words. 🙂