Teddy really is terrible.
Teddy is a little bear, and as Jolibois describes him, Teddy is a brat, a mean brat, and as far as the fish is concerned, a sadistic brat (“Now, c’mon little fishy, / I’ve got a plan. Let’s hold your breath, / for as long as you can”) who dangles him over the water. All the other creatures in the woods are victims of Teddy’s malignity—the frogs’ lily pad gets sunk, the squirrels’ tree gets shook, and, for a touch of psychological abuse, he tells the two little birds: “Your mother has left you. / She packed up her sack. / She flew far away. / She’s NOT coming back.” It’s all a bit much, even when readers learn Teddy is an orphan and all he needed was the love of a mother, a quiet talking-to, and a kiss or 10. There is a disconnect here between the pen-and-wash art, which Barcilon has treated with tongue in cheek, and Jolibois’ text, which is absent of any elision from cruel to cuddly. Nor does it help that some of the couplets are pancake flat: “Do you hear all that noise? / All that shouting and clatter? / Forest creatures are frightened. / What could be the matter?”
You need to be Edward Gorey to pull something like this off, and this team is not. (Picture book. 4-8)