________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV . . . . August 31, 2007


Theodora Bear. (Orca Echoes).

Carolyn Jones. Illustrated by Barbara Spurll.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2007.
55 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 978-1-55143-496-4.

Kindergarten-grade 1 / Ages 5-6.

Review by John Dryden.

* /4


"Harriet," Teddy said,"this is my spot."

"But you're right in the middle, Teddy," Harriet said. "Where am I going to sleep?"

"Can't you sleep on the other side?" Theodora asked. "Do I look like a snake? How do I do that? Cut myself in half?"


Theodora Bear is Carolyn Jones’ first book. The book is divided into 12 chapters with each chapter being a separate story.

     According to the Orca Book website, books in the “Orca Echoes” series are for beginning readers:

  • Ages 7-9
  • Grade 2 reading level
  • Engaging characters
  • Age-appropriate fonts
  • Generously illustrated, 15 black-and-white drawings
  • Easy-to-follow plots, exciting stories
    (Source: Orca Echoes: early chapter books)

     The illustrations by Barbara Spurll are black and white, and depict the story scenes well.

     Harriet, the human, has 15 stuffed animals that talk to her. The animals have conflict throughout the book. Sometimes it is about what music to listen to. Sometimes it is about what to eat. They change their names.

     It is difficult to describe this book. It is one of the most odd books I have ever read! People I read it to simply did not get it (children and adults). The publisher described it as having the theme of 'sibling rivalry,' but there was no real rivalry. The publisher also described it as 'a modern day Winnie the Pooh which sets it up as a significant book. The 15 stuffed animals are drawn and labeled with their names in the front of this book. No character in this book is as engaging as any from Winnie the Pooh. They are rather annoying and rude to each other and to their owner, Harriet.

internal art

     One of the difficulties the reader faces is keeping track of 15 different stuffed animals and two human characters. The brief chapters are good for students who cannot read for a long period of time, but this does not allow for character development, and the reader is never connected either to Harriet or the animal characters.

     Another oddity is the lack of a consistent plot. With each chapter as a separate story, the reader is left confused and unsure of what the point of the chapter was. The first chapter begins with the animals deciding to cheer Harriet up because she has a cold, but they end up criticizing her for not wanting to get better after she scolds them for being so loud. In fact, every chapter has unresolved conflict. If this was the point of the novel (such as being a  discussion starter), it is never made clear.

     At one point in the novel (as quoted above), the author refers to Theodora as Teddy (I had to glance back to the front to the character map to check to see who this "teddy" was), and a confusing exchange takes place as to which character this is. I use this example to demonstrate the typical plot disruption of this novel. Another time, we are introduced to her friend Carla (apparently human, not animal). This was another scramble back to the front of the book to see who Carla is. I wondered why Carla and Harriet did not get a spot on the character listing in the front, but the 15 stuffed animals did.

     This book falls short of making a connection to the reader due to its inconsistent or nonexistent plot and rather annoying animals characters. I cannot see how the novel fits into the 'sibling rivalry' category as there is no real rivalry between the animal characters as well as no real solutions offered.

Not recommended.

John Dryden is a teacher-librarian in Duncan, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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