Arthur struggles to deal with his seemingly on-the-spectrum younger brother, Liam—until a friendly polar bear, Mister P., arrives to help.
Liam melts down in difficult situations, leaving Arthur feeling self-conscious and embarrassed. His parents’ somewhat heavy-handed and not especially sensitive management of Arthur’s issues has left him bitter and sad. He’s in the middle of running away from home when he encounters Mister P. Although some adults are initially nonplussed to find a giant bear in their midst, they adjust very easily. Mister P. has little trouble helping Arthur accept Liam’s differences and get over his resentment, and as an added bonus, he also helps Liam cope better. As seen entirely from Arthur’s point of view, Liam and his parents are only superficially sketched, providing little insight into their thoughts and actions. Rieley’s numerous half- and full-page illustrations are a hilarious accompaniment to a tale that for the most part doesn’t take itself too seriously, even though it borders on the didactic at times. Some of the text occasionally cascades artfully down the pages, providing another amusing element to this early chapter book. Arthur and his family are depicted as white, and his teacher and best friend are illustrated as black.
Useful as bibliotherapy for siblings and classmates of children with autism, this effort also crosses over to readers who enjoy fantastical animal tales. (Fantasy. 7-10)