Children’s book tells a compelling story of friendship and forgiveness

Something’s fishy in Ryan O’Connor’s cute children’s book for ages 3 to 10 called “Bobby the Bear and His Missing Dinner” (Xlibris).

No sooner has Bobby set out to catch a fish for his meal and put it on the fire than it suddenly disappears in the split second he turns to greet his friend Fred the Fox.

This sets off the delightful pace of the tale, as Bobby and Fred begin the search for the missing dinner. They will encounter a variety of characters — Tanya the Tiger, Rachel the Rabbit — who know nothing about the disappearing dinner but are happy to come along and join the search.

As it turns out, the mystery doesn’t last long. As the friends come upon Peter the Panther, the animal confesses that he was so hungry, he knew he was not capable of catching his own fish, and decided to grab Bobby’s.

Bobby’s response is touching, providing a great lesson for children: “‘It’s OK, Peter. All you had to do was ask, and I would have happily shared the fish with you.’”

“Bobby the Bear put his big paw around Peter the Panther and said, ‘We are all friends, and we should never take something that belongs to others. We need to be honest and help each other out. That’s what friends do for one another!’”

LIFE LESSONS WRAPPED IN AN IMAGINATIVE TALE

Rather than beat children over the head with messages, the author weaves valuable learning into the story about honesty, friendship, forgiveness, sharing and caring. “I want to help them learn ethical and moral lessons in a different way, through a unique story,” said O’Connor in a recent radio interview on the show “Author Voices.”

The concept of reading is becoming something of the past, according to O’Connor, who is determined to get kids off their screens and into the pages. He recalled that his parents, strong advocates of reading, would devote time every evening to having Ryan and his siblings each find their nook in the living room and go about reading their own books. “It opens up a world of imagination for (kids) — that anything is possible,” he said.

Today, O’Connor’s commitment to encouraging kids to read is greater than ever. Living in China, he is far away from his nieces and nephews. While trying to teach a class of his how to formulate characters and put a story together, he decided to do one on his own — as a way of reaching out to his young relatives. As it turns out, the illustrator for Bobby the Bear is the author’s 16-year-old stepdaughter.

Young children not only will find an engaging story in “Bobby the Bear and His Missing Dinner” but in the end, will learn a lot more — as did Bobby and his friends — than what happens to a missing piece of fish.

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