If you've read some of my other posts, you'll already be aware that I was no fan of Roald Dahl before it was cool to dislike him. You'll also know my feelings on David Walliams. If you've listened to my podcasts (I swear, there will be new episodes at some point), you'll be aware of my disdain for other celebrity authors as well. But Michael Rosen is different. As an author... I don't care for him. As a poet... I don't care for him. As a person... he's a nice guy and will, in my experience, hold a very civilised conversation with you treating all discussion threads as just that: discussion. Two-way debate. Opinions expressed, shared and explored. He didn't even mind that I didn't like his poems (for the record, Benjamin Zephaniah was the same - great man).
Michael Rosen is responsible for many things in the world of children's literature and one of his most enduring (for some people, this will mean 'ever-lasting' for me, it means 'refuses to die') is a saccharine mess about a painfully happy family relentlessly pursuing an innocent animal. I don't like this book. Well, I didn't until I thought about it a little differently...
"We're Going on a Bear Hunt" is a beloved children's book that has been read by countless families for generations. Written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, the story follows a family on a journey through various obstacles in search of a bear. While on the surface it appears to be a simple adventure story, a closer examination reveals that the book can be read as a metaphor for dealing with grief.
The journey the family embarks on is not dissimilar to the emotional journey of grief. The family leaves the safety of their home and begins to navigate through different terrains, such as the grass, the river, the mud, and the snowstorm. Each new terrain represents a different stage of grief, with its own unique challenges and obstacles to overcome. For example, the river could represent the overwhelming emotions that one feels in the early stages of grief, while the snowstorm could represent the isolation and loneliness that can come later on.
Throughout the journey, the family encounters various setbacks and difficulties. They face tall grass that blocks their vision and deep mud that slows them down. These obstacles can be likened to the various emotions and feelings that one experiences when dealing with grief. There may be moments of confusion, sadness, anger, and frustration that make it difficult to move forward. However, the family in the story doesn't give up. They push through each challenge, and in doing so, they come together as a unit, supporting and encouraging each other along the way.
At the climax of the story, the family comes face to face with the bear. In the context of grief, the bear could represent the pain and fear that one feels when confronting the loss of a loved one. However, the family does not run away or shy away from the bear. Instead, they face it head-on, and in doing so, they overcome their fear. This is an important message for anyone dealing with grief. It is not easy to face the pain head-on, but by doing so, one can begin to heal and move forward.
Finally, after the family has faced the bear, they turn around and make their way back home. In the context of grief, this could represent the journey of healing and recovery. It is not an easy or straightforward path, but by facing the obstacles and challenges along the way, one can eventually make it back to a place of safety and security.
In conclusion, "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" is a story that can be read on many levels. While it is undoubtedly a fun and exciting adventure story for children, it also contains deeper themes that resonate with adults. By seeing the journey of the family as a metaphor for dealing with grief, we can gain a new appreciation for the book's message of perseverance, courage, and the power of love and support. It is a reminder that, even in the face of great loss and adversity, we can find the strength to move forward and overcome our fears. What other children's stories do you think contain hidden messages that resonate with adults?