A Very English Bear, by Robin Goddard
Reginald Arbuthnot Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley) is not an ordinary bear. He’s capable of speech and needs help – after all, due to an unfortunate misspelling of his name he can’t rise to his rightful place as the 9th Viscount of Salop Oak.
He needs a crafty plan to set the world to rights and carry on his father’s family name – but how? He’ll need a friend to help him, but rather than become the teddy of a child, he’s been lumbered with an adult and all the issues that brings along with it! How will he manage to get his name changed back and claim the viscountcy that’s been in his family for so many years?
With the aid of a cast of loveable characters, including the Bishop of Exeter – and his bear, too! – Reggie sets off to right what’s wrong and ascend to his place in the world. But does the bear have some lessons of his own to learn along the way?
I don’t, ordinarily, read a lot of children’s books. Aside from the occasional foray into books I read as a teenager, and a fairly haphazard tendency to re-read the Harry Potter once in a great while, my most likely books to read are those which live by the side of my 4-year-old’s bed.
But when I was approached by this author, asking me if I’d make an exception and read his book to review it later, I decided to bend my own rule just this once. You see, A Very English Bear is a special book in more ways than one.
The royalties from this book benefit a charity for children with life-limiting illnesses, and any help I could extend in that direction would, of course, be a good thing.
A worry, then; what if the book turned out not to be very good? I pride myself on honest reviews, and didn’t fancy having to tell the author I didn’t like his book, or worse yet; having to tell you.
Luckily, this fear was entirely unfounded. From the very first page, young readers are swept away into an amazing adventure with a hero they know all too well – the common garden-variety teddy bear (only don’t let Reggie hear me say that!).
Reggie is cheeky enough to bring a few giggles, but not so cheeky as to alienate his young audience – and the way adults are gently derided helps children feel they’re part of something that’s just a little bit naughty.
It hasn’t convinced me to hang up my hat as a reader and reviewer of ‘grown-up’ fiction… But I’m definitely amenable to spending some time on a wild goose chase with my own teddy bear!
Reviewed by Elise Hattersley