Cover image for The Society of Distinguished Lemmings
The Society of Distinguished Lemmings
First edition.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 30 cm
General Note:
"First published in the United Kingdom in 2018 by Templar Publishing"--Copyright page.
Reading Level:
490 Lexile.
When the lemmings encounter a bear, they are determined to help him be more "distinguished'--just like they are--but little do they realize this bear could be exactly what they need to save them from themselves.


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In a society of lemmings, can a bear ever belong?
The Society of Distinguished Lemmings aims to be distinguished in absolutely everything. It takes an awful lot of rules to be so distinguished, including: no rolling around, no climbing about, and certainly no splashing in the mud! But Bertie has had quite enough of the society and all its rules. After venturing outside, Bertie discovers a bear, who is very unlike a lemming. With the bear's help, Bertie learns that prancing about in the wild is quite a lot of fun! But when the other lemmings find out about the bear, they decide everything about him will have to change if he's ever to fit in. Will the Society ever accept Bertie's new friend, or is the bear simply too big and clumsy of a creature to be distinguished?
This hilarious tale features valuable themes of finding new friends, challenging peers, and questioning the rules. Readers will return to the story again and again to discover the quirks of every distinguished lemming while also learning about the importance of staying true to yourself amidst pressure to conform.

Author Notes

Julie Colombet began drawing and painting at an early age. She studied at Chaumont, France, where she discovered children's illustrations -- a universe and language that fascinated her. She has a great affection for creating characters and is the author of a number of French children's books. Julie lives in France.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1--3--Start with end pages depicting nearly 300 individual cartoon lemmings and you may commiserate with Bertie who is fed up with all the noise and high-brow social activities in the burrow. Upon his arrival aboveground, he meets a brown bear, who despite their initial preconceptions of each other's darker nature, gives Bertie a friendly lick. Together, they paint, play chess, and jump in puddles. When the lemming's relatives come up en masse, they examine the bear and find him lacking in social graces. On impulse, the chatty crowd decides to take a seaside vacation while Bertie and his friend read a history of lemming behavior. Bear rushes to rescue the hoard from drowning. They celebrate him and modify their collective's title to "Society of Distinguished Lemmings and Bears." VERDICT This debut picture book requires multiple reads to absorb all of the humor in the various lemmings' conversations and activities like dressing and packing. A quirky addition.--Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bertie the lemming is chafing under the rules of his highly formal, regimented community (Rule #2: "Always act in a distinguished manner." Rule #10: "No questioning the rules"). Emerging from his underground maze of a home --wittily evoked by debuting Colombet's digitally colored pencil drawings--Bertie meets up with a huge, friendly bear (rendered in intricate, velvety textures of cocoa) who opens him up to new and less rule-bound ways of being in the world. But in the eyes of the Society, at least, the bear is at best hopeless and at worst a miscreant: his table manners are lacking, and he likes to jump in mud puddles. "You are distinguished, just in a different way," Bertie tries to assure Bear after an introduction to the Society goes south. It takes a looming catastrophe and a clever rescue by Bear to convince the lemmings that maybe they can loosen up--a bit. Colombet packs her story with vivid personalities (the earnest, wide-eyed lemmings are a collective hoot), visual jokes, and, as befits a large, opinionated community, many, many dialogue balloons. There is much to linger over and return to in these pages. Ages 6--10. (Mar.)

Kirkus Review

It's a relief to find a story about lemmings with a happy ending.The lemmings in this picture book aren't precisely cheerful. Their idea of fun is to "perform long and serious plays," although they "play the piano exceedingly well!" Their activities always conform to a strict set of rules (10 of them) including, notably, "no unseemly or wild behavior." Unlike the lemmings of legend, they do not march off a cliff, but they do follow the lemming tradition of making a "migration" into the ocean, where they face the risk of drowning. Fortunately, they've made a new friend, an enormous bear, whoin the tradition of a good parablefollows none of the rules but turns out to be extremely talented at swimming. The moral isn't terribly heavy-handed. The lessons about tolerance and culture clashes are far outnumbered by the jokes. Many pages are nearly filled with lemming word balloons, as in a comic book. They're also filled with lemmings: Colombet's creatures have the look of those that appeared in the marginalia of old illuminated manuscripts, but in this bookto readers' benefitthey take up just about every inch of the page. A surprisingly large percentage of the jokes actually work, and the lemmings in the pictures are delightfully wide-eyed and shaggy.Even the most rule-bound reader will be cheered up by these stodgy lemmings. (Picture book. 5-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

In her debut, Colombet pulls back the curtain on lemmings' devotion to the arts and high society. Indeed, the opening spread features a detailed cutaway of the lemmings' burrow that reveals the furry rodents performing Hamlet, playing the piano, partaking in a fancy dinner, and having a game of badminton. Bertie, however, does not enjoy this prim and proper lifestyle, so he goes outside and promptly encounters a bear. After a tense moment, the bear makes it clear he wants to be Bertie's friend, and the lemming learns the joys of the bear's uncouth and often muddy pastimes. When Bertie asks the Society of Distinguished Lemmings to admit the bear as a member, they decree he isn't distinguished enough, but an act of ursine heroics soon proves otherwise. Colombet's story of friendship and embracing differences shines most in its endearing pencil illustrations, digitally colored in rustic tones. Speech bubbles scatter across scenes crowded with lemmings, resulting in an adorable and hilarious peanut gallery guaranteed to elicit giggles from little readers.--Julia Smith Copyright 2020 Booklist