The Fourth Bear


The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
Author: Jasper Fforde
Title: The Fourth Bear
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publication Date: 2006
Number of Pages: 378
Geographical Setting: Reading, England
Time Period: 2004
Series: Nursery Crime Division

Plot Summary: This is the second book in the Nursery Crimes Division series by Jasper Fforde. Detective Jack Spratt heads the agency that specializes in those cases that have a nursery related twist. He is accompanied by Sergeant Mary Mary and Constable Ashley, who is a binary fluent alien. The story mostly follows Detective Spratt as the plot unfolds. The reader is immersed in his world of talking bears, nursery characters (or PDRs, Persons of Dubious Reality) come to life, and murderous cookies (or cakes). The literary references are usually obvious, but every so often one will sneak up and surprise you. The literary references, characters, and puns humorously weave together an entertaining detective mystery.

Subject Headings: Nursery rhymes—Adaptations; Fiction—England; Humor—Fiction; Mystery; Fantasy; Police; Detectives; Murder

Appeal: Compelling; fast-paced; detailed; recognizable; layered; literary references; multiple plot lines; contemporary; humorous; playful; conversational; smart; witty

Three terms that best describe this book: Tongue-in-cheek, surprising, fun

Relevant Fiction:

  • Fables by Bill Willingham (The first is Legends in Exile; fairy tale and storybook characters live along side humans; reformed Big Bad Wolf is the sheriff, Snow White is the deputy mayor under King Cole, although she’s really in charge; many of the same characters from The Fourth Bear appear in this series, even though it’s a graphic novel)
  • Jack, the Giant-Killer by Charles de Lint (Based on Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer; fantasy novel; faeries, gnomes, and bikers)
  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire (the Wizard of Oz, as told by the Wicked Witch of the West; familiar story told from a different view point / side; fantasy as well)

Relevant Nonfiction:

  • Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme by Chris Roberts (the history and reasoning behind nursery rhymes, written by a British librarian and tour guide)
  • Bears: A Brief History by Bernd Brunner (history of the relationship between man and bear)
  • Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening by Aurelia Scott (a journalist’s peek inside the cutthroat world of competitive gardening)

Name: Jill Chouinard

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