Christopher Cartier of Hazelnut, Also Known as Bear
Al Stray is manager of the Port Credit Public Library.
Curiosity about Bear is aroused in the opening paragraphs, and it is not long before the chippy, somewhat arrogant Christopher Cartier bursts onto the scene. Though Bear dominates the tale, the narrator (never identified) is someone readers will feel comfortable with and will be willing to spend time with.
Sand dunes, a light house, fishermen’s sons, wild geese, salty air, and a forest teeming with life fill the pages; one can almost smell the scenes. Bear is obviously full of himself, but no wonder; he “bears” the names of Christopher Columbus and Jacques Cartier, not to mention his victory at the Battle of the Hazelnuts. A chance encounter in the woods between Bear and the narrator is the start of a lasting friendship. Bear, as portrayed in this fantasy, possesses the naiveté of a young child and, unlike some other popular bears in fiction, this one never loses touch with nature. Bear is very much a bear. And when it comes time to return to the woods, it is a wiser, more mature Bear that leaves the daisies waiting for their gardener, the bees anticipating an attack on their hive, and the herons just waiting.
Christopher Cartier of Hazelnut has appeal as a children’s tale and, on a deeper plain, an adult story. As the story winds down, Bear and the nar-rator reminisce, remembering the good old days. “Roses are red, violets are blue, pumpkin jam is sweet...”. As the narrator says, “they had been good old days”, and a good read. Indeed, Bear is the “bawlingest, smartest, thoughtlessest, hare-brainedest, most adorable.... little bear cub that ever lived.”
Originally published in French (Paris: Hachette, 1981), in Wayne Grady’s translation this edition introduces English-speaking readers to the imagination of Acadian award-winning author Antonine Maillet.