Bertie and the Bear, by Pamela Allen

Reviewed by Alison Miles


Rambunctious, vivid, active and full of wonderfully repeatable words – this could be said of any of Pamela Allen’s picture story books, and is true of Bertie. No wonder she is often in the awards lists and her books are in library bags everywhere.

Allen’s colourful illustrations ‘above the line’ suggest movement from the first endpaper. Her use of white space focuses the eye on her characters. Bertie is being chased by a bear (who I think is really his friend) so the Queen steps in to shoo the bear away. The others join the chase for the fun and the opportunity to make a lot of musical noise (trumpet, gong, horn, flute, drum and voice playing BLAH! BLAH! and BONG BONG-NG-NG and OOOOOH! etc).

Impossible to read quietly, children in the three to six year old age group love to imitate the sounds and stamp and twirl with the characters. Allen has used handwritten crayon text within the illustrations to emphasise sounds. Her words are expressive with onomatopoeia used infectiously. The whole story is like a very active musical and movement piece (which could be printed on a scroll) fading gently to a pom pom at the last. As Bertie and the Bear so vividly conveys, children enjoy music and movement and this makes storytime fun!

Bertie and the Bear, by Pamela Allen
Penguin, 1990
ISBN 0140509720

Review © alison v miles, 2006. The Word Box blog @

Doodledum Dancing, by Meredith Costain and Pamela Allen

I’m rocking, I’m reeling
I’m whirligig wheeling
Tip-tapping my toesies
And singing this song.

The poems in this delightful collection will have adults and children alike tip-tapping their toesies and clapping and rocking along – though some may want to draw the line at sim-somersaulting as they read – it could be risky.

The eighteen poems in Doodledum Dancing are very easy to read because they move along at a glorious pace and are both fun and funny. Youngsters will love the rhythm and movement, but they will be equally captivated by Costain’s wonderful use of language – words such as those in Loose Tooth:

A wibbly wobbly
Angly dangly
Wiggly waggly
Loose tooth.

make for fun reading and plenty of giggling.

Also giggle-inducing are the illustrations by Pamela Allen, bringing each poem to life with simple yet rich images which capture the movement of the poems perfectly.

This is an exuberant offering which parents will love reading to their preschoolers, and older children will enjoy reading by themselves. It is also perfect for classroom use.

DoodledumDancing, by Meredith Costain and Pamela Allen
Penguin Australia, 2006