Norton and the Bear – Children’s Book Week Review

Norton and the Bear was shortlisted by the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) for Picture Book of the Year 2021.

Abstract

NORTON wants to look unique.

The BEAR wants to look just like him.

This is definitely going to be a problem.

REVIEW

This funny and engaging picture book appealed to me because I have a daughter who has a meltdown if her sister dares to wear anything the same as her! Just like Norton in this story, she likes to look unique. She won’t even let her sister have the same umbrella or school bag as her! So I could readily relate to this story and Norton’s need for individuality. 

Norton, a stylish dog, loves to dress in his own unique way. And a large polar bear, liking what he sees, copies Norton’s choices. It starts with a woolly jumper, then a brown scarf, followed by a green hat. In his desperation to look unique, Norton puts socks over boots, a blue flower in his hat and a stick in his jumper. But the bear continues to follow suit. Norton’s frustration escalates.

They say that to imitate is to flatter. In this instance, the Bear wants to be like Norton. Norton, however, is not at all flattered. He does not like a copycat. Norton wants to be unique. He feels annoyed and exasperated and cross enough to yell at the bear – ‘Stop copying me!’

Both characters are likeable and have their own side to the story. I thought it was admirable of the bear to respond very politely when Norton loses his temper. In the end, friendship triumphs in spite of their differences. It’s a very satisfying ending. Themes of individuality, belonging and friendship are conveyed in a relatable way.

The artwork is soft and gentle, using watercolour, gouache and pencil. The colour palette is minimal, drawing attention to the two central characters. The illustrations complement the text and create a deeper understanding of what’s happening in the story. This is a wonderful story to share with children and to read aloud.

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About the Author

Gabriel Evans is an author and illustrator of children’s books from Western Australia. He works from a small, messy studio on a hill where he likes to make books, drink tea and plant oak trees. He has a pet Border Collie dog and likes frizzle chickens.