This book was one my son picked from the library but as he loved it so much I had to just buy it for him.
The best-loved bear was first published in 1994 and is written by Diana Noonan and illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller. I hadn't heard of either of them till reading this book, but Diana Noonan is a New Zealand Author who has written over 100 books and won several awards including in 1995 Aim Children's Book Award for Best Picture Book for The Best Loved Bear. Illustrator Elizabeth fuller also won this prize and has illustrated over 60 books and is again from New Zealand.
The book tells the story of a young boy called Tim and his bear Toby and a competition at the end of the school term to find the best loved bear. Tim is worried about his bear Toby not because he doesn't love him but because he has loved to him too much and he has become a bit worn and bedraggled. With very simple text and beautiful illustrations the story unfolds of how Tim has hugged the fur off, sucked a piece of his ear off and worn a hole in his nose due to so many kisses. Tim tries to repair Toby by brushing his few bit of fur, bandaging his ear and putting a plaster on his nose. When he takes him to school he is worried about how he looks especially when he see other teddy bears with new jackets and shinny noses and paws as the headmistress judges them. When she sees Toby Tim goes red but as she describes Toby as "This bear has been loved to bits" and is going to get the gold medal Tim is so happy and goes from being ashamed of his bear to carrying him high on his shoulders all the way home.
On the first read of this with my son I could immediately see why he had picked this story has it described his own teddy bear to a tee as his own bear has a chewed ear, and a few patches of thin fur and the odd patch sewn on him to repair holes but he thinks he is the best and loves him a lot.
The simple pencil drawings look a little dated by today's standards of bright colours and cartoon type of drawings however this gives the book a real authentic and simple feel to it which further underlies the message in the book. One of the reasons I like it is that it shows children that not all stories need to be bright and a good story is more important than bright colours.
I think the message that comes across with this book of love and friendship in its most basic form is lovely and one that my son is more than able to identify with. He like Tim in the story is embarrassed by his teddy bear at times so can emphasis with his worry and concern very well. Equally when Toby the bear wins the prize for being the best loved bear my son is able to be proud of his bear like Tim and how he thinks Tim has it right to love his bear in this way. I love the way the story helps re-affirm for my son the love he has for his bear that is best to be cuddly and loved.
As a parent I love this simple story of how something doesn't have to be the most newest toy or the most up to date game or designer name to be the best. I think it gives a great message to children that no matter how something or someone looks it is important to be loved and we shouldn't judge things solely on appearances. It does this in a lovely gentle way without being preachy as the teacher recognises that a bear whom has a new jacket is loved too.
The language and text is simple to read and understand and the type face used is nice and clear for children as they get older to read themselves or to younger siblings. None of the words used are un known to my son and this makes it nice and easy for him to understand the story.
The book is a bit harder to get now and is only available on Amazon second hand from around £5 but for me it is definitely one that I would recommend for the simple joy and message it gives.
Publisher: Scholastic; Re-issue of new ed. edition (20 Sep 2002)