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A Boy and A Bear in a Boat
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A Boy and A Bear in a Boat

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  657 Ratings  ·  175 Reviews
A boy and a bear go to sea, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book, and a ukulele. The bear assures the boy that they are traveling a short distance and it really shouldn't take very long. But then they encounter "unforeseeable anomalies": turbulent stormy seas! a terrifying sea monster! and the rank remains of The Very Last Sandwich. The odds are pitted against the boy ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by David Fickling Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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This is a book aimed at 8-11 year olds, and I suspect, boys. However the essentially existentialist narrative may attract an older audience who would see it as a metaphor for life and experience. In simple terms it is about a boy and a bear on a boat. There is no explanation why, where or when and the ending is left open. The bear, (the captain) does not always inspire confidence, they experience various anomalies and unexplained problems but, but together they struggle on. For me the strongest ...more
Jul 11, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, arc, fantasy
waiting for godot meets the little prince. I love it so much I can't even tell you.
May 08, 2012 Samuel rated it liked it
Shelves: children
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joe Humphreys
May 27, 2013 Joe Humphreys rated it really liked it
Of all the Carnegie shortlisted books, A Boy and A Bear in a Boat is the one aimed at the youngest audience. It is a deceptively simple tale and the nuts and bolts of the plot are pretty much covered by the title. It’s the sort of book that reviewers would say raises a smile, call ‘charming’ or ‘quirky’ and then not even contemplate garlanding with the highest accolades. Yet there is more to Dave Shelton’s tale than this. As young an audience as this is aimed at, it is arguably the most ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
It seemed to be just one episode of a longer story so it didn't have a proper beginning or ending, it was all just part of the middle. There was no way of knowing what had gone on before or what would happen after. And, actually, the boy didn't have much of a clue about what was going on now.

Is it possible to write a simple, abstract fable largely about a character being bored that is not itself boring? That's the question I kept asking myself as I read this book. For a large part of the story n
Jul 17, 2014 Kaethe marked it as abandoned
It's hard not to be bored by a book that keeps telling us how bored the boy is. I can't be bothered to try, no matter how much I liked the cover.
Jun 25, 2012 Karen rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ms. Yingling
Apr 27, 2012 Ms. Yingling rated it it was ok
A boy approaches a bear in a boat and asks how long it will take to get "just to the other side". Well, apparently longer than a three-hour tour, because the bear runs into "unforseen anomalies". The duo drift for days and days, subsisting on bizarre sandwiches and, since this is a British author, tea. They run into storms and giant sea monsters, have to catch fish, and end up on a weirdly antique ship after their smaller boat floats away. When that, too, is destroyed, the two sail off into the ...more
Nov 10, 2014 Andréa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids, animals
This is one of the slowest, least interesting, most boring kids' books I've read. Those attributes are even more pronounced and disappointing because the cover leads one to expect an exciting adventure. The illustrations are excellent, and I would love to read a picture book by Shelton, but I don't think I'll be recommending his novel to anyone. It felt much like a text you'd be required to read for a college philosophy class, not like a novel aimed at middle schoolers... and it held my ...more
Ben Babcock
There’s a boy, and a bear, and they are on a boat. No, not “on a boat”. Actually, more kind of in a boat. A rowboat. Named Harriet.

Bears are not cuddly. They are ferocious wild animals that really just want to be left alone, to roam through the wild and eat fish and have bear sex. So I’m not quite sure how we went from bears mauling people to teddy bears and anthropomorphic bears who wear boots or hang around with that Christopher Robin kid. I wonder if there is a middle, transition state out th
Mar 21, 2013 Caren rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
I loved this book, although it is about as quirky as they come and, I suspect, will not appeal to everyone. Just as the title says, it is about a boy and a bear in a boat. Nothing more, nothing less. Why they are in the boat, where the boy was trying to go, why a bear is piloting this boat....well, none of that is explained. Even though this is a children's book, I think many adults will enjoy it as much, if not more, than the middle grade readers at which it is aimed. As an adult, I kept ...more
Sue Lyle
Sep 18, 2014 Sue Lyle rated it really liked it
I read this because a teacher told me her class of 9-10 year olds loved it and they spent a whole term on the book. I loved it too but can't explain why, it has a mysterious property. A bit like 'Life of Pi' for children without the backstory. The teacher used it for her philosophy sessions and found the children were interested in speculating what the book was meant to be about. Lots came out about the nature of relationships, in particular unequal friendships and interdependence. I also ...more
Mar 30, 2015 Simon rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s
2.5 actually

A note I made half way through: "Reviews and awards suggest premier league. And I suppose it is. But it's more Leicester versus Hull than United versus Arsenal. It's good, but it's much better if you come from Leicester...or Hull. (on page 150 of 304) "

I hoped it would get better. It didn't. In fact I came to realise I had put it a couple of divisions higher than it merits. (But so have a lot of other people!). If you aren't expecting much then it's an OK story. If you're looking for
Mar 24, 2013 Joss rated it it was amazing
One of the most debated books on this year's Carnegie shortlist! I was familiar with Dave Shelton from his excellent comic Good Dog, Bad Dog so looked forward to reading it and I loved it. Yes it's beyond weird and I'm not sure how it would go down with children (am currently testing with a colleague's grandchildren) but I loved it.
A boy wants to go "just over to the other side" and gets into a boat captained by a bear who at first appears to be a competent seafarer, though fairly rapidly we re
Dec 06, 2014 Sakura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I honestly feel sorry for any kid who has the misfortune to read this book.
This book claimed it was ORIGINAL and ENTERTAINING (emphasis not mine) - it was not.
HILARIOUS - it was not.
With illustrations TO DIE FOR - nope.
If you get given this book you are LUCKY. Share it aloud: BLESSED - HELL no (emphasis mine).
Own it: others are JEALOUS - *strangled noises*
No story line, detestable characters (especially the boy) and, if that wasn't enough, the BLOODY WRITING. The author clearly thought the abu
Dec 29, 2012 Doug rated it really liked it
This is an odd little book for sure. Shelton's illustrations have some of the whimsy of Peggy Fortnum's classic drawings of Paddington Bear, but the story of this unnamed ursine and lad, though grounded in a wealth of specific physical detail, is almost certainly too amorphous for most children's taste. The book plainly operates at a symbolic level, but it's not as obvious about at it as, say, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull or The Old Man and the Sea. It's like an unlikely meeting of Paddington ...more
Lauren O'Farrell
Utterly lovely, odd and really rather magical. This book is firstly drop dead gorgeous at first sight (and was winner of the 2013 Kitschies Inky Tentacle cover award).

The insides don't disappoint either. The story is simple, slow and loveable (a bit like the bear himself) and draws you into its own little world effortlessly.

The purposeful lack of detail gives it a dreamlike quality and a feeling of being as lost as the characters in the story. All floating on a sea of well-chosen words and gor
3 1/2 stars. This book is aptly titled. "Waiting for Godot" came to mind as I read it aloud to my 9 year old. While the plot is thin on excitement, the story does offer up some very good dialogue between the boy and the bear. And the bear had some great one-liners that made us laugh out loud. ("Do you think it was something he ate?" said the bear.) Funny stuff. We really liked some parts but not enough parts to give it 4 stars. And we were left wanting a little bit more of an ending. It was hard ...more
Really sweet book. I loved how the spirit of it was so positive. They didn't always know where they were going or what they were doing but they just ploughed on. I had fun finding possible metaphors for what the adventures represented. In contrast I also thought that the brutalness and cruelty of life was expressed really well.
A great adventure story for children, and a lovely book for older readers.
Jul 08, 2013 Rebecca rated it liked it
Shelves: kids-books, animals
I don't know what it was about this story, but I just couldn't get into it. The illustrations were awesome and the humor was great, but I just had to push myself to finish it. Maybe it was too existential for my personal taste or I wasn't in the right place for it, but I just was not feeling this book. I would normally put it at 2 stars, but in this case I don't think it's fair to the author. This book just may not be my cup of tea...
Jennifer Darrouzet
Dec 27, 2013 Jennifer Darrouzet rated it really liked it
The kind of book you can put down and pick up after a few weeks for another chapter with a kiddo. My 9yo had to stop reading a couple times tonight because he giggled so much that he got the hiccups. So that'll be worth some stars right there.
Fantastic book. 'Life of Pi' crossed with 'Waiting for Godot' for children. Possibly the coolest kids' book cover design ever on this hardback edition. Not surprised they chose a different approach for the paperback though :-)
Library Maven
Sep 27, 2013 Library Maven rated it liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
Perhaps because I read it as a digital ARC without illustrations, I found this book quirky and strange.
Edward Sullivan
Jul 11, 2013 Edward Sullivan rated it liked it
Existential adventure for middle grade readers. For those not yet ready for Life of Pi.
Monica Edinger
Not sure what to make of this one.
Jan 09, 2014 Maria rated it it was amazing
One of the weirdest books ever. If you haven't read it, put everything else aside and read
Sep 10, 2012 Betsy rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 30, 2016 Bodwisebooks rated it it was amazing
A book I saw and bought, no thinking about it as it was a had to have book. I read the blurb and thought that sounds rather different, got to read it. Well I was on holiday when I bought it and it only took me part of the day to read it from start to finish. I just loved it, there was at one point my family thought they would need to call an ambulance as I was laughing so much that I gave myself an asthma attack! I struggled to read the part to them (as still laughing so much), they could ...more
Georgia (The Bibliomaniac Book Blog)
Goodreads synopsis: A boy and a bear go to sea, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book, and a ukulele. The bear assures the boy that they are traveling a short distance and it really shouldn’t take very long. But then they encounter “unforeseeable anomalies”: turbulent stormy seas! a terrifying sea monster! and the rank remains of The Very Last Sandwich. The odds are pitted against the boy and the bear and their boat. Will the Harriet, their trusted vessel, withstand the violent lashings of the ...more
Hmm. I give this book 3 stars because I'm not quite sure what to make of it. I can see how to some people might absolutely love it, but then I can also see how others might hate it. But I don't feel either particularly strongly.

The book starts with a boy getting onto a boat (captained by a bear) and saying he just wants to get 'to the other side'. They've been going for several days when the boy realises they must be lost, and challenges the bear. They fall out. Then they forgive each other. All
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Carnegie book war...: A Boy and a Bear In A Boat 18 13 Jun 17, 2013 11:18AM  
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“The boy shivered. The bear sniffed the air.
"What do you smell now?" said the boy.
"Danger!" said the bear.
The boy looked alarmed. The bear sniffed again.
"Or maybe marmalade," said the bear.
The boy gave him a dubious stare.
"Possibly both," said the bear.”
“And they disappear over that flat blue horizon and onto another.” 2 likes
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