Life is never dull when your best buddy is a chatterbox like Hummingbird. But sometimes – just sometimes – Hector craves a little peace and quiet. But does the solitude he crave come at a price?
One is gentle, docile and serene; the other is a flittering, fluttering ball of excitement who just can’t contain the urge to chit-chat about anything and everything.
Peruvian bear Hector and sidekick Hummingbird make an unlikely couple, but their friendship works. Most of the time, Hector is happy to quietly listen and Hummingbird is happy to talk. Incessantly.
Whilst Hummingbird’s indomitable spirit and enthusiasm are infectious, you do still have to feel for long-suffering Hector. Is it too much to ask to be able to enjoy your custard apple in peace without someone nattering non-stop in your ear?
However, this is one of those days when Hector’s patience is wearing thin (we all have them) and he blows his top with an exasperated: “Aaargh! Leave me alone!”
Taken aback, poor Hummingbird can’t quite bring himself to leave, but instead secretly follows in the background. Ah, at last, Hector has just what he wants. A bit of solitude, and the chance to scratch his back on the scratchiest tree, and bite into a succulent custard apple, but why doesn’t it feel as good as he thought it would?
It’s a case of you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and he suddenly starts to miss Hummingbird – who thankfully is able to emerge from his hiding place as soon as Hector mentions his name.
There is a bitter-sweet familiarity about the dynamics that might strike a cord with older siblings who get impatient with a copycat younger sibling, or even parents who might – just ever so occasionally – tire of their child’s boundless enthusiasm. There might be a tinge of recognition, too, for the sense of shameful remorse (coupled with pride) that Hector feels when he realises the reason for Hummingbird’s ardour is a touch of hero-worship.
Frith’s chosen palette of colours is quite delightful – there’s just something about that crisp Tiffany blue that brings a touch of class, and it’s set off nicely with the pink, green and the warm brown of Hector’s fur. The limited palette also gives a wonderfully Mid-Century modern retro feel to the illustrations.
A heartwarming tale that explores the ups and downs and give and take of friendship, with the added bonus of a mini masterclass at the back of the book that identifies some of the unusual creatures who live in the Peruvian jungle – providing the perfect excuse for you to read the book again so your child can spot all the animals lurking in the pictures.
Fun fact Perhaps the most famous bear who hails from darkest Peru is Paddington, the fictional bear created by Michael Bond. Like Hector, Paddington is a Spectacled Bear (so called because of the distinctive markings around their eyes that look like spectacles), indigenous to parts of South America.
Did you know? Hummingbirds are the tiniest birds in the world, yet their brain is 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom. Hummingbirds are very smart and can remember every flower they have been to, and how long it will take a flower to refill.
Author notes Nicholas John Frith is a freelance illustrator and author, living and working on the coast of Dorset, England. Nicholas grew up in the Chiltern hills, going to school just round the corner from the home of Roald Dahl. Hector and Hummingbird is Nicholas’ debut picture book.