Peace at Last – Jill Murphy

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.

I kind of adored this book. It doesn’t pass the Bechdel, because there’s only one female character (Mrs. Bear). There’s no diversity to speak of – the characters are bears, but they’re pretty Anglo-Saxon bears. However, it does break one small gender norm, which pleased me, which is to say, it was Mrs. Bear who snored, and Mr. Bear who was kept awake by the snoring. This led me to wonder whether the whole “husband snoring” stereotype is a new thing, or if this book just quietly and without fuss chose to ignore it. A brief Google didn’t really answer my question, but in either case, I like that it’s this way round just because it goes against the usual stereotypes.

Of course Mr. Bear fails totally as a parent when he tries to sleep in Baby Bear’s room, but Baby Bear isn’t sleeping he’s playing airplanes. Instead of doing something about this, Mr. Bear just gives up and goes to try and sleep in the lounge. (And yes, we’ve all been that parent who eventually just gives up and goes to sleep while your kid is still awake, but you know, he could have made some effort. Still, that would have broken the rhythm of the book, so I suppose I must forgive him.)

C and I both enjoyed it. The book has a clear rhythmic structure, and that thing where you just can’t sleep no matter what you do, and then eventually fall asleep just before your alarm goes off, is pretty universal. I love that in the morning, despite getting almost no sleep, Mr Bear is still relatively chipper. He looks tired on the last page, but not actually grumpy as his sprog does what sprogs do and leaps all over his bed giving him the mail, while Mrs Bear makes tea.

It’s cute. It has just a soupçon of gender-role subversion, and is about a simple thing with relatively universal appeal, which is always good. It’s structured in that nicely repetitive rhythm that works so well for kids’ books. So yeah. Read this one. 🙂


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