Review by Win Wiacek
A second outing for the affable Bigby and his animal entourage is very welcome. Their world is a bucolic forest, coastal and mountain idyll, where they observe tentatively interact with the wider world, and creator Philippe Coudray has made no changes to the winning formula introduced in Bigby Bear. Or Benjamin Bear if you prefer, under which name this volume was previously translated in 2013, subtitled Bright Ideas.
Often employing puzzles and riddles and as much children’s storybook of episodic vignettes as graphic novel, these particular collected strips offer charming, visually challenging riffs on the impact of the year’s divisions, as seen through the eyes of the gentle bruin living wild and honing his artistic skills.
Coudray’s mind flits across numerous subjects such as art, science, psychology, mathematics, ecology and much more, and he poses questions about them that in turn will prompt his young audience to think. There are telling moments of social commentary, but Coudray and Bigby’s over-riding message is that co-operating with each other leads to a happier life for everyone, and reinforcing that message is the benefit of art. Bigby and his rabbit chum play with universal constants, carve, sculpt, paint, compose, garden and wander for the sheer joy of creativity.
In this second translated volume exploring the wonders of the annual cycle, ‘Fall’ opens the fun with a wealth of cartoon ruminations on harvest, climate, travel and occupying spare time before ‘Winter’ centres on snow, chills and Christmas with the big guy eschewing hibernation for the joys of playing with his cub and chums. A time of renewal and abundance is enjoyed in ‘Spring’ as the bear hunts early fruit and honey – as well as cold, hard cash – and languishes in paradisiacal field and stream before ambling into ‘Summer’ where fishing, swimming, visiting, hobbies and games fill every endless day.
Visual tricks and double-takes abound and Coudray never misses an opportunity to share a solid laugh with his readers. It makes Bigby Bear an excellent, irrepressible example of how to enjoy life and crucial reading for young and old alike. A third selection follows in The Explorer.