The Great Paper Caper

by Oliver Jeffers
ISBN: 0399250972

I was poking around the bookstore when I saw this, and I had to bring it home because it made me happy.

The cover features a bear wearing a jaunty red cap resting his arms on an axe handle. He’s surrounded by blue winter sky, you can see bare winter trees in the distance, and three stumps near him. He sort of ends funny: he’s standing not on powerful bear hind legs, but penciled in stick legs.

The Great Paper Caper is an illustrated children’s book, and according to the blurb on the back cover (which also features a stick-legged owl and a beaver with a magnifying glass), it is “a thrilling tale of mystery, crime, alibis, paper planes, a forest, and a bear who wanted to win.” As they say, it does what it says on the tin.

I just love the charmingly odd illustration style — everyone is stick-legged, even the duck, but the duck has orange stick legs — which manages to capture all the right details but only the right details. The book is also funny: imagine a police lineup with the aforementioned bear, a polar bear, a koala bear (holding a “not me” sign) and a teddy bear; imagine finger-pointing stick-legged animals with ridiculous alibis; imagine the forest animals trying to call the police from a red British phone box.

The book isn’t heavy on delivering a message, so don’t be scared off by the “‘green’ story” bit on the flap. If it teaches a lesson, it might be “don’t be an ass” or “if you steal you’ll make people mad, get caught, and have to make reparations” or “learn how to make a decent paper airplane”. If you read this to really observant young people, they may ask why a pig appears to be frying up bacon, or why a person’s nose is at the top of their forehead, or do ducks really sit under those helmet hairdryers, or why is that owl facing the tree trunk, did the owl get a timeout? These would all be perfectly reasonable questions under the circumstances.

I highly recommend this book if you appreciate whimsy (not the sickeningly cute tries to be whimsical but isn’t kind, the good kind) and need a little book happiness. Yes, it is aimed at children, but as a broad-minded reader you won’t be afraid to sally forth to that section of the bookstore and find this book. It would probably do you good to look around while you are there.

One thought on “The Great Paper Caper

  1. You’ve expressed exactly how I feel about this subtle but very funny and clever book. Thank you.

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