Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The trip to Panama by Janosch

"Once upon a time, a little bear and a little tiger lived down by the riverside."

Thus begins an absolutely charming story of adventure, friendship and contentment.  Little Bear is a fisherman. Each day he he catches the fish for their dinner. Tiger is a very good cook so while Bear is fishing Tiger collects mushrooms, berries and honey. Each evening they sit down for a delicious dinner.

One day down by the river Little Bear sees a crate which smells of bananas,  On the side is the word Pa-na-ma.  "This crate comes from Panama, and Panama smells of bananas! Oh, Panama is the land of my dreams."

The next morning they pack up their fishing rod, red cooking pot and stripy tiger duck toy.  Along the way they meet a mouse who cannot believe any place in the world could be better than his mouse hole.  Then they meet a fox.  "Turn left,' said the fox, with out giving the matter much thought .... Left was the wrong way; they shouldn't really have asked the fox."  Next they meet a cow who also advises turning left.  Even the youngest child will realize you cannot keep turning left.  "If you keep turning left, where do you get to in the end?  Yes, quite correct!"

I adore this conversational style of the off stage narrator.  The Trip to Panama is a conversation between the characters and between the reader and narrator.  Often this means the reader knows more than the characters and this is just such fun.

As the journey progresses there are numerous obstacles but these two are such good partners.  Bear builds a shelter, Tiger finds mushrooms and with gentle reasurance the pair are not afraid.  By good luck they meet a kindly hare and hedgehog.  The next day they meet a crow.  She flies the pair into a tree and they marvel at the wonderful countryside.  Bear and Tiger are really just seeing their own countryside, river and home but from the tree they don't recognize this - they are seeing their world from a new perspective. Continuing their journey down to the river, they build a raft, repair the broken  bridge (Little Bear had once built this bridge many years earlier) and lastly they stumble on a sign post.  At the start of their journey Little Bear had made a signpost from a piece of the crate to show the way to Panama.  Now "it had fallen over and was lying in the grass"  Reading the sign they dance for joy and just a little further on they spy a house.

I thought it was time for me to talk about this special book since I mentioned it in a previous post.  There are several books in the series about these friends although sadly all are now out of print.  You can read more about these on the author web site.  Luckily we do have this book and a simple video in our school library.  Look for it today.

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