Three Bears in a Boat: 04/01/16
Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman is the story of a quest to replace a precious blue shell, broken during some sibling horseplay. The journey takes the bears: two brothers and a sister, across the sea to fantastical islands and through all sorts of adventures. They also meet a number of interesting seafaring bears who might look familiar to savvy parents.
But this book might be one that's better geared to the parents than their children. At least that's how it's played out whenever I've seen it read in a mixed setting. The parents seem to get the jokes and the kids seem stuck on the title. Three Bears in a Boat doesn't seem like much of a title. It's straightforward description. But to a well read adult, it brings to mind Jerome K. Jerome's hliarious memoir: Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), and of course Connie Willis's equally hilarious science fiction homage, To Say Nothing of the Dog. So for me, I immediately appended To Say Nothing of the Shell to the title as it's the story of an improbably adventure that takes them right back where they need to be to find a new shell.
Inside too, the artwork is again aimed at the adults who are most likely reading the book aloud. There are references to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn another to Three Men in a Boat, and a one to Moby-Dick.
It's not that children can't appreciate this book, it's just that they might need some guidance. Use the book as an introduction to the cultural references. This isn't a new problem, certainly but a really excellent story will take a layered approach so that the appeal won't hinge solely on one's cultural literacy. Here though, the cultural references don't stand up by themselves to intended audience.