Bordeaux-born in March 1960, writer, photographer and illustrator Philippe Coudray specialises in cartoons and books for children. His signature creation L’Ours Barnabé, here Bigby Bear, provides the philosophically absurdist ruminations of an artistic bear and his woodland companions.

These collected strips feature an affably gentle bruin living wild and honing his artistic skills in a bucolic forest and mountain idyll, observing the world and pondering big questions in a surreal and often absurdist daze. He’s beguiling, and often beguiled.

Visual tricks and double-takes abound as he and his rabbit chum encounter other animals and aliens, ignore the laws of the universe, carve, sculpt, paint, compose, garden and wander for the sheer joy of creativity. Subtly posing questions to make youngsters think – about art, science, psychology, mathematics, ecology and much more – Coudray never misses an opportunity to share a solid laugh with his readers and reinforce his message that life would be great if we all just mellowed out and got along with each other. He’s also more than happy to pepper the strips with the occasional telling moment of social commentary if the chance arises.

Genteel fun, bemusing whimsy and enchanting illustration cloaking a supremely inclusive philosophy of curiosity, enquiry and cohabitation, Bigby Bear is a delightful example of how to enjoy life and crucial reading for young and old alike. Get the digital edition immediately before backing it up with the wonderfully tactile, sturdy hardback your kids will want to paw and peer at over and over again.

This isn’t Bigby’s first appearance in English as he was previously seen under the Toon books imprint as Benjamin Bear, with this selection titled Fuzzy Thinking and earning an Eisner Award nomination. More philosophising follows in For All Seasons.