Bear Flies High is a short, rhyming book from Michael Rosen and Adrian Reynolds. It’s a sequel to The Bear in The Cave, which is a similar style.
Bear lives by the sea, on the beach, and longs to fly in the sky like the birds. His friends the children tell him of a place where he can experience the excitement of flight, and take him off to the theme park. There they go on the cups and saucers, in the haunted house, and finally on the Big flipper.
There’s lightness and jollity in the wordplay in this book. The rhymes take the form of a dialogue between the bear and the children.
“I’m a bear on a beach.
On a beach?
On a beach.
And I sing by the sea all day.
Doo be doo
Doo be doo
Doo bee doodily doo.”
This makes it quite fun to read, rolling the sounds around in your mouth, and more fun to listen to. But there is skill at work here too. “I watch the birds in the sky./ In the sky?/ In the sky. / And they fly above me up high.” The desire in the repeated long vowels shows the quality and control of Rosen’s best writing, and this continues when Bear contemplates the Big flipper.
“You can fly up there, if you dare.”
Scary scarety scare.”
For a short and simple book it is textually well-crafted and the tension ebbs and flows beautifully. From the initial problem of the bear who wants to be a bird there is excitement on the theme park rides, followed by the tension approaching the flipper and the wonderful release as he flies down it. “I’m a bear who can fly!”
Adrian Reynolds’ illustrations are just right. The comically lumbering bear is huge but obviously friendly and again there is a subtlety of skill that lifts this above the norm: the framing of the pictures brings out the emotion of each situation: the whirling cup almost flies out of the page and the comic strip effect as he climbs up to the top of the Big flipper shows the fear and trepidation perfectly.
This is along the same lines as We’re Going on a Bear Hunt but to my mind is better; there is a greater depth and skill here and much more longevity.