Bartholomew the grizzly bear’s encounter with a bug can be read from the pictures alone or from the text. Both are straightforward and unadorned, but putting them together makes a deliciously humorous whole in which the bear’s stolidity contrasts with the ditzy little bug who just wants to party. The bug has just one day to live and wants to make the most of it, so finding himself in the wilderness with a snoozy bear as his only company is a disappointment. But Bartholomew is not without compassion or ingenuity, so between them they make their way to the bright lights of the faraway city where bug has the time of his life and bear learns that it is fun to sing, dance and party – now and again.
The illustrations for the most part are flat and nineteen-fiftiesish looking, and are laid on matt paper. Layton’s line is scribbley and child-like and the type is a sort of thickened Courier apart from the speech bubbles through which bear and bug interact. All these actually very sophisticated design features, like the words and illustrations, come together to give the book a child-like feel. This story about mortality is writ lightly, and like Bartholomew, readers will enjoy the light side of life.