Brudders Learns How to Make Friends is an exquisite story that soothes the soul and will fill everyone’s heart with warmth while following the adventures of the sweet bear Brudders in learning about friendship, love and respect. Through stunning illustrations, the readers can only remain enchanted as they dive into Brudders’ journey with its various emotional stages, thus getting completely swallowed in the book to the point that it becomes impossible not to empathise with its adorable protagonist!
Now, I have read and reviewed many children’s books throughout the years, however, for the first time, I have found myself completely speechless upon reading this one: it is simply perfect. The kind of perfect that leaves you with no further comments because it speaks for itself in its perfection. Having stated this, I could easily end my review here, but instead I will gladly try to find the words to detail why I believe Brudders Learns How to Make Friends is a masterpiece that everyone needs to have in their libraries (and it will be a long review!).
First of all, let’s begin with Brudders himself. Brudders is not only the hero of the story, but also the cutest, loveliest, most delightful character I have ever read about, which made it ever so enthralling to follow his adventures as the pages unfolded. If you think Winnie the Pooh is the undisputed king of the cute bears in children’s literature, well, you are in for a surprise!
Brudders’ greatest wish is to make new friends, but he does not know how to quite do that initially, hence he behaves inappropriately and ends up feeling even more lonely than the start. But fear not, because at this point the seagull Zeke enters the picture, like a deus ex-machina, teaching Brudders what went wrong and how he can fix his mistakes. It is easy to see how, allegorically, Zeke represents the parent and Brudders the child-reader who gets to learn about these things for the first time altogether with Brudders the character, as the parent-narrator Zeke is reading the story to them. This facilitates a sense of identification with the protagonist, which is excellent as the child is instinctively prone to believe that, the same way Brudders made friends after having learned certain important lessons, they too can achieve the same result if they listen to Zeke’s (and therefore, the parent’s) advice.
Indeed, what works best about this narrative is precisely that it conveys a universal, powerful message of solidarity and acceptance at a time when the world seems to be marked by increasing diffidence and intolerance towards all those who are different, different in their own, extraordinary way. Brudders encounters difficulties at first with his approach towards the other animals precisely because he is not mindful of the differences that make each of them unique and special: in order to overcome this obstacle, he simply needs to understand this diversity, even to cherish it, make it his own instead of perceiving it as alien and frightening. This is what Zeke teaches him, and Brudders ultimately does not feel scared or threatened by the various species of animals he encounters, each with their own attitudes: in fact, he embraces their distinctive traits and understands that the very simple key to resolution is respect, and that knowledge is power. Ignorance generates intolerance and more isolation, but the narration does not want to separate, instead, it ties together through building bonds of responsibility and faith.
Another important reason why this book makes a valuable addition to every child’s library is exactly because it brings attention to the fact that children ask questions, they wonder why things happen and in what way they contributed to something happening. Zeke provides Brudders with clarifications, he provides answers, thence embodying both the parent and the role of literature by metonymy, as answering questions and providing guidance is exactly the role of children's literature. Brudders makes the children-readers understand that it is good to ask questions to know what went wrong and how it is possible to improve, that they should not be afraid to be curious, and Zeke on the other hand makes them understand that their parents will not silence them, that they are there to teach them lessons. Zeke, as a parent-like figure, embodies the fact that parents are in fact the true best friends every child does not know they have watching over them.
The sympathetic judgement (if not appreciation) Brudders reserves towards the peculiarities of the animals he encounters and the correct employment of his newly acquired social skills attract even more positivity, as the other animals realize that, because of his kindness and good manners, they too want to be friends with Brudders. In the end, all walls are demolished in favour of a celebration of unity and respect, symbolically represented by the dinner party scene. Thus, with a strong, unapologetic and relentless force, this book sends the message that no matter how difficult it can appear, everyone can stop and listen to the others, understand them, understand one’s self as part of a bigger community and how to relate to it in the name of peace and love. It gives a fantastic message of hope for future generations to get educated and go out to discover that being different is a point of cohesion, not destruction.
All of this is conveyed through the most wonderful watercolour illustrations, a form of art children are very fond of and yet which you do not find so often anymore, since nowadays it is preferred to simply leave everything to computers, therefore sacrificing the uniqueness of the single, hand-made illustration. The detailed drawings animate, with soft and elegant brushstrokes, the cute characters of this book in a glorious way: the hand of the artist is impeccable, the tints are delicate and yet striking, and they support with their beauty a tale that is already beautiful in itself. The events are narrated vividly through the superb drawings of the talented illustrator, offering important visual stimulation alongside the text. Hence, they fulfil their implied function perfectly, as the very reason why children’s books have pictures is that of enlarging and enhancing the reading experience, making it even more magical in the eyes of the child-reader. All the characters resemble pretty soft toys and one cannot help but wish to be able to hug them all, as the outstanding drawings flow from one page to the other! The emotions of all the characters are depicted so exquisitely that I found myself moved to tears as Brudders passed through the various stages of emotional realization: carefree, sad, lonely, hopeful, respectful, and I too felt I was going through them with him, accompanied in this by the vivid portrayals on each page.
Stylistically speaking, the vocabulary is rich and varied, the rhymes never banal, which is rather surprising since this is the very flaw of most children’s books, that tend to sacrifice quality for quantity. The language is educational but never moralistic, the phrases convey in a simple and yet captivating way all that needs to be said, reaching the heart of all readers effectively and directly. The style is also very sensorial, focused on arousing emotions, and thus reads very poetic indeed. The rhymes come across as harmonious, pleasant and elegant, a feature which is intensified and strengthened by the equally marvellous illustrations completing the text. Likewise, the font chosen is gorgeous and it matches the style of the drawings in an extremely coherent way: another pleasant surprise!
In short, there is nothing to criticize and much to be praised about Brudders Learns How to Make Friends, which I am sure will become a modern masterpiece of children’s literature very soon and which I recommend to everyone, adults and children of all ages. This book has greatly exceeded my expectations and I thank both the author and the illustrator for having created such a precious treasure that I finished in the blink of an eye, instilling in me a great desire to have more! I am very much looking forward to following Brudders’ future adventures, and in the meantime I recommend everyone gets their hands on this book, either as a present for themselves or to enrich their friends’ libraries!
I am in the senior sophister year of my BA in English Literature and Classics, writing a thesis on John Keats’ poetry and 19th-century Victorian literature. I majored in English and I am specialized in reviewing children's books and classics. Tips for my work are greatly appreciated!