The title of the book sums up the plot. A boy hires a bear to take him across a body of water on the bear's boat, the Harriet. Things do not go as planned. The bear's questionable competency as captain, or as he says, 'unforeseeable anomalies' in the currents result in the Harriet drifting to the middle of nowhere. It does not take long for the boy to become bored and pessimistic. Though the bear remains confident that things will work out fine, all evidence points to the contrary. The boy and the bear eventually run out of food and have to learn how to fish. They also encounter a sea monster, battle through storms and discover a possible ghost ship. The relationship between the boy and the bear alternates between irritation and affection. The book’s open ending shows the importance of the journey over reaching the final destination.
I honestly don’t know what to make of this short existential story. On the positive side, there are great comic exchanges between the bear and the boy and the illustrations are fantastic. On the other hand, if this book had a point, I didn’t get it. The action is understated and the characters are not well-developed. The novel left me feeling much like the boy: bored and annoyed. I cannot see middle grade students enjoying Shelton’s book.
2 out of 5 stars