Publishers Weekly - Papa's Backpack
Publishers Weekly (May 2015)
A small bear wishes he could join his soldier father while he is away. Carroll (The Boy and the Moon) places the bears in a kind of tribal society: they wear feathers on their heads and tunics decorated with spirals and stripes, and the bear’s fellow soldiers are a mixed-species outfit of spear-wielding rabbits, birds, and other creatures. Throughout, Carroll emphasizes soldiers’ nobility (“sometimes soldiers go…/ away for a while,/ to help for a while,/ so I can stay/ and play,” says the young bear), as well as the tenderness of the bear’s father. Rather than fighting their fellow animals, the warriors combat a giant bird that seems to emerge from a storm cloud. The effect is more akin to battling a dragon or the elements (“We’d feel the sting,/ the twisted wind./ We’d taste/ the angry rain”), which helps make the bear’s wish to accompany his father easier to imagine. Blending scratchboard-like textures with dense swirls of color, Carroll’s illustrations dazzle; the story itself is best suited for families who wish to recognize the importance of soldiers while shielding children from the brutality of war. All ages.