Minnow and the Bear

Beautifully illustrate picture book, but disappointing as a book about the stone age.

Minnow and the Bear, by Benedict Blathwayt (Red Fox Picture Books)

A beautifully illustrated children’s book, but disappointing as historical fiction.

Minnow, the caveboy longs to be old enough to go hunting with the men, but instead he accidentally falls into the river and gets washed down river. Minnow and his new friend the bear cub survive in the wilds, until the depths of winter draw him back home.

The outstanding thing about this book is the illustration. Exquisite, detailed, studies of the natural world, laid out in full pages and smaller cartoon strip style, gentle action through the pages.

Despite this it failed to impress us as historical fiction. The words feel slightly disjointed, but most of all the characters and culture feel all wrong.

Whilst the boy appears perfectly capable of gathering food and looking after himself on his adventures the women of his community are completely useless. They are seldom seen to move from their cave, don’t gather foods or do any productive work and are unable to relight the camp’s fire when it goes out. With each re-reading these parts feel more and more patronising and unrealistic as a portrayal of a time when the whole community had to work together to survive. The sharp division between the adult male hunters and the one lone boy also grates. Rather than showing the way hunter gatherer children learn by immersion in the every day life of their community, it feels like a twenty first century boy’s day dream.

In summary a good picture book for a child that loves visual elements and tiny details, but best avoided as a means of learning about the stone age. If you want a children’s picture book that exudes the feel of the time and people then we recommend Stone Age Boy.

Find Minnow and the Bear on Amazon…