4 out of 4 stars
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For as long as I can remember, I've loved teddy bears. That I'm aware of, none of them have ever written any stories about my life though. Fair Bear, Love Bear, and Sleepy Time Bear, however, have no problems sharing the goings-on in the lives of their owners, Kelly Donovan, Richard Forrest, and Rachel Verona, respectively. Written by Donnalyn Vojta, The Teddy Bear Chronicles Vol. I: Hope in Paris! follows the three humans' stories as told from the viewpoints of the trio of stuffed animals.
Kelly, whom I consider to be the main protagonist, is in an abusive relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Mark Flannery, and she's planning to escape, but can she get away safely? Richard, meanwhile, can't even get a woman to see him beyond the third date, so will a trip to the city of love, Paris, help with his relationship issues? And what about Rachel? How does the drama teacher at an orphanage factor into all of this? You'll have to read the story to find the answers.
Every so often, I come across a book that makes me thank God that I learned to read. The Teddy Bear Chronicles was just such a book. From the opening line, I was enthralled, and my attention didn't wane once during the nearly 300-page read. Books written from the viewpoints of pets are nothing new, but I was absolutely captivated by the words "written" by the three inanimate stuffies. Their ways of looking at things were so innocent, yet funny, that I found myself giggling almost as much as I was quivering with anxiety. Fair Bear's first chapter in particular had me shaking my head in awe. After a violent argument between Kelly and Mark, the bear commiserated about Mark's former girlfriend, Haley, and how "untroubled and content" they were, aside from a few utterances of "Don't you dare try to leave me!" or "You're mine and only mine!" I found myself thinking,"No red flags, there, bear?" This same bear also pondered how Mark "couldn't" help around the house because he "had" to go play golf. Love Bear thought itself - none of the bears seemed to have genders, so I'll just refer to them neutrally - a master of amour, while Sleepy Time Bear took its duty to help the children sleep at night very seriously, even if it did think its costume was silly. The author did a superb job in giving the stuffed toys distinct personalities, for which I applauded her. I was also impressed with how she was able to keep the bears situated in positions where they could see the action in order to narrate it. I loved these bears so much that I've actually started looking on eBay for teddy bears that resemble them.
The humans were drawn pretty realistically, and I felt myself cringing a lot during the domestic scenes between Mark and Kelly, as Mark was very similar to men that I've known. Richard was smart and sweet, but definitely needed help in the love department, and Rachel was a great role model for her orphans, even as she had her own personal issues to deal with. The book also had a few interesting secondary characters, such as Chloe Stogdon and Ms Keller. While none of the characters had fully fleshed-out backgrounds, I did know enough about past events in their lives to know what motivated them as well as frightened them. I was therefore able to sympathize with Kelly and Richard while glaring hatefully at the screen at Mark and others like him.
I will admit that I was a little nervous when I looked at the Table of Contents, as the story didn't seem like it would be told chronologically, but it turned out that that was only because, with the story being told from three different viewpoints, it had to be that way. Ultimately, the changes in time weren't too bad; they'd generally only leap forward or backward by a few days or weeks, and they were easy enough to follow. Also, the changes in point-of-view were mostly only once per chapter, so the differing viewpoints weren't confusing either.
While I cannot say that this tome was impeccably edited, the errors were few and far between and not distracting enough to be a nuisance. There were also a few inconsistencies. For example, at one point, Love Bear said, "The museum had entire areas devoted to textiles dating back to Renaissance times and home decor dating back to Gothic times," but the narrator was in Richard's briefcase while in the museum, so it seemed illogical that it would know that. Still, even these missteps were very minor.
It is my extreme pleasure to give this fantastic book 4 out of 4 stars, and I highly recommend this tome to people who love books written from the viewpoints of inanimate objects (or pets) and fans of tales of overcoming adversity. I do caution readers that this story IS NOT MEANT FOR CHILDREN! There is a fair amount of graphic violence not suitable for the very young or those with weak constitutions. There are also themes of domestic violence, so I advise those triggered by such scenes to stay clear of this yarn.
- Fair Bear, The Teddy Bear Chronicles Vol. IOh, well. What do I know? I'm just a stuffed toy.
The Teddy Bear Chronicles Vol I
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