Review by Frank Plowright
Once America’s greatest scourge of middle class pomposity and social affectation, forty years later Jules Feiffer settled into producing children’s books. The gulf isn’t as vast as might be imagined, with much of his method transferable. The loose art that once contorted people into strange shapes accompanying their own verbal contortions is equally appealing to children, and only years really separate the howling child in I Lost My Bear from the tormented Leo Quog from Tantrum. For all the complexity of the figures from his 1950s strips, they were loose and kinetic, equally suitable for children, and if anything the background detail here is greater than his better known work.
Everything you need to know is in the title. A little girl suddenly remembers she’s misplaced her bear, and Feiffer escalates her upset as she searches high and low, frustrated at the platitudes of her parents who’re sure it’ll turn up. Feiffer conveys this nicely. Children’s stories usually contain coded moments to prompt thought among their young readers, so providing advice for the adults who’ll be reading this to their youngsters is a neat twist. Perhaps we should all take into consideration how great the loss is to a child, no matter how trivial it may be to us.
For any adult this will be a quick read, ideal for bedtime, as Feiffer uses big pictures, washing watercolour all over them, in places not even keeping within the lines. Is this another coded message? There are a couple of imaginative solutions to the problem of the lost bear, and Feiffer knows well enough to provide a happy ending. He’s not stretching himself in any way, but with his track record why should he? A ten minute animation followed.