Review by Ian Keogh
Kodi is the bear young Katya discovers trapped as she returns from a trip to the convenience store. This has been forced by her grandmother, as left to her own devices Kodi will remain at home reading comics, as when she’s outside other children make fun of her large, sticking out ears. With her grandmother’s help she frees the bear, but the problem then becomes what to do with it. It’s awful hungry for a start.
Any adult reading Kodi will realise how the opening half is stitched together from commonplace situations in books or TV for children, but that’s largely irrelevant. The younger audience it’s aimed at may not have come across a parable about what it takes to motivate an insecure child, or the oddball friendship between a lonely youngster and a grateful animal, and besides, Jared Cullum presents everything with such charm. This isn’t a Disney style bear that’s all-singing and all-dancing, but one that behaves as a bear in most respects other than not eating Katya when he first sees her.
Cullum’s skilled watercolours create a rustic world that’s appealing and safe, and given the correct motivation Katya learns to leave her room and appreciate nature. Of course, summer holidays don’t last forever, and halfway through Cullum switches tack, making Kodi the focus of attention, and eventually introducing an equally likeable new main character. Joshua is a little older than Katya and has his own problems, which are ingeniously solved.
The word count is kept to a minimum, possible because Cullum’s expressive talents ensure the art conveys much of the story, and that it delivers three dimensional personalities. The cast is also kept to a minimum, making it as easy as possible for younger readers to understand what’s happening, and they’ll be taken on a heartwarming journey of potential realised, with the importance of understanding emphasised.