A runt puppy with disabilities and a black bear losing his forest home develop a long-lasting friendship.
Originally from Jamaica, dog Molly lives a good life with her mama and dada in New York. Even with her poor eyesight, she navigates the forest with ease, relying on her sense of smell and her hearing. During one of these morning jaunts, she meets a lonely black bear, hiding in the branches of a tree. Initially fearful, Molly comes to trust the bear (that she names Babou), and their friendship gains traction. Through the seasons they explore the forest and meet other animals, all while Molly hides their friendship from her adopted dog sisters, Rags and Pupsie. When Babou returns from hibernation with an ailing bear cub, Molly enlists the help of Rags and Pupsie as well as her mama and dada to save the bear cub’s life. When the cub begins to grow into its “bearness” a decision must be made that will separate Molly and Babou forever.
In a world where bullying seems to occur more and more, often with horrifying and tragic results, MOLLY AND BABOU, while not specifically about bullying, offers good lessons for children about accepting people different from them. The unlikely friendship between Molly and Babou suggests that differences and disabilities aren’t detriments but rather things that make each character unique. Even with Molly’s poor eyesight and traumatic beginnings, she spends every day making good use of the abilities she does have and lives her life just like anyone else. Metaphorically, Molly’s impaired vision speaks to not focusing on the “superficial” differences between her and the bear she names Babou but rather focusing more on the intangible things they have in common. For Babou’s part, reaching out in friendship to alleviate his loneliness, despite his fear-inducing status as a bear, speaks to not accepting others’ definitions of what one should be. Helping others solve problems is also addressed as is (albeit briefly) environmental concerns. While these concepts are far more complicated in real life, authors James Mahoney and Marie-Paule Mahoney present the information simple enough to be understandable to children without dumbing it down. The inclusion of both still images and illustrations helps bridge the gap between the fictional aspects of the story and the real-life problems the characters encounter. The storyline sometimes feels heavy-handed, but the overall lessons the story provides outweigh any perceived agenda.
MOLLY AND BABOU is a sweet tale of friendship with solid lessons woven throughout the story.