Albert Le Blanc
An uplitfting story about a bear without a smile A very sad-looking French bear has arrived in the toy shop. His name is Albert le Blanc. The other toys plan a special show to cheer him up. Albert keeps trying to tell the toys he's not sad - he just has a sad face - but they are too busy with their show... Jack-in-a-box leaps around, Pickle the mouse tries to tell a joke (but forgets the ending) and Sally the hippo puts on her bright red lipstick and performs a ballet. But, Sally's ballet moves aren't quite as graceful as intended and she falls on top of Albert, planting a big kiss right on his mouth. And when Albert gets up again he has a huge red lipstick grin all over his face. Everyone laughs and laughs... especially Albert le Blanc!
Albert Le Blanc is a large, fluffy, white, toy polar bear who appears one day in the window of Mr Jolly's toy shop. He immediately becomes the focus of the other toys' curiosity - because he's the most sad and dejected-looking creature they've ever seen. They decide that Albert has lost his smile and resolve to cheer him up by putting on a show. The toys scramble to work on their party pieces - from Pickle the mouse's disastrous joke-telling to Sally the ballet-loving hippopotamus' funny dance routine (although she thinks it's "beautiful and artistic" and few of the toys would dare to disagree). Poor Albert is subjected to the show, despite his attempts to protest that he isn't really miserable, it's just the way his face has been made. But it's Sally's dancing finale that has an unexpected outcome for everyone, especially Albert.
Well-loved children's illustrator Nick Butterworth has created a heart-warming story with sparky dialogue and some memorable characters, especially Albert, a study in Gallic nonchalance. Much of the fun lies in spotting the familiar characters that appear as toys in the shop, including Jane Hissey's Old Bear, Martin Handford's Wally and Butterworth's own Percy the Park Keeper. You may or may not also spot the Trumpton fire brigade... depending on your age! Suitable for ages four to seven years. --Alison Drury