Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gavin Bishop's Autobriography from a teddy bear's view

Teddy One-Eye: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Gavin Bishop, Random House NZ

This handsome hardback book is a fascinating hybrid. The sub-title makes the shape of the story obvious, but there are other elements carefully woven in. And like any challenging book, questions come to mind but don’t get answered – probably deliberately. The story is written from the point of view of a somewhat philosophical teddy bear who belonged to the author when he was a boy. Through the teddy’s eyes (eye?) we learn about Gavin’s family and childhood in the 1950s – including all sorts of interesting details that leave me in awe of the author’s memory.

But the story is more than just a study of a childhood in New Zealand. This is a very long-lived bear who also belonged to the author’s daughters in their turn, an experience that involved some interesting cross-dressing. A hint of mystery throughout the text eventually results in readers learning about a tragic previous owner before Gavin actually laid hands on the bear.

There are times when Teddy is abandoned in a cupboard or trunk for many years. He hibernates, but to keep the reader’s interest from waning Gavin has included rolling graphics that mark relevant historical events during those years, eg. in 1969 Neil Armstrong took a teddy bear to the moon.

This book will be bought by all New Zealand public libraries, also primary and intermediate schools. I suspect it will be enjoyed most by keen readers of about eight or nine, but all school-age children will be able to appreciate it if parents make it a family read-aloud book, adding explanations and discussion when needed.

ISBN 978 1 77553 727 4 RRP $34.99 Hb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman   

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