Red Hat by Lita Judge
This picture book is a companion to Red Sled. It features that same red hat that was in the first book, but here it is no longer winter and the hat is washed and hung up to dry on the line. That’s when it is spotted by an eager bear, who snatches it off the line and runs off with it. But he is not alone, as he dashes, other animals pull and tug, freeing the white pompom and unraveling the bright red yarn as they play. They leave the mass of yarn hung on the line in place of the hat! But don’t worry, a happy ending can be knit from the most tangled yarn.
Told almost entirely in sounds rather than words, this book is filled with a wonderful silliness that makes it hard not to giggle from the first longing glance of the bear to the final pages where the animals are pretending innocence at what happened. The center of the book is a wild chase scene as the hat unravels, adding a great rush of fast pacing into the story.
A great book, even better when read with the first one too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Little Cub by Olivier Dunrea
The author of the Gossie books returns with this companion book to Old Bear and His Cub that explains the way that Old Bear and Little Cub met. Little Cub lived all alone near the forest with ono one to take care of him. He was often hungry and slept alone and cold outside. Old Bear lived alone too. He had plenty to eat and a warm place to live, but no one to share it with. Then one day, Old Bear heard odd noises coming from a pile of rocks. It was Little Cub, trying to sleep curled into a ball. It was Old Bear who named him Little Cub and Old Bear who took him home, gave him food, tucked him into a warm bed, and promised to teach him how to fish. And it was Little Cub who filled up that empty bed so that neither of them had to be alone any more.
This is such a warm story. Showing the way that Little Cub and Old Bear came together to be a family is honey rich. Dunrea takes him time showing the parallels between the two bears’ lonely lives. Though they are different in age, in being able to care for themselves, they are alike at heart and searching for something new.
Dunrea’s writing is simple but also cheery. Though it explores a child alone in the cold wilderness, one doesn’t worry because there is a sense of safety throughout. Children will understand the hunger and chill and also that level of joy that is clear. A large part of this are the illustrations that show blustery winds but also have the security and solidity of Old Bear right there too. He is the hope for Little Cub, one that radiates across the pages.
Fans of Dunrea will enjoy this new series and those who read the first in the series will cheer to see Old Bear and Little Cub return. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Philomel.
Polar Bear Morning by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Stephen Savage
Following the picture book Polar Bear Night, this second book continues the story of the little polar bear cub. The cub wakes up and peeks out at the day and snow outside her warm den. As she starts to explore, she discovers another little cub out playing too, sliding down a little snow hill. The two of them immediately start playing together, running towards the sea and eventually jumping into the icy water side by side. The two little friends end up together on an ice berg surrounded by family, seals and whales.
Perfect for toddlers, this book speaks to the speed at which small children can find playmates and make friends. As the two polar cubs run together, they pass different arctic animals like seals, walrus, seagulls and whales. The text is brief and clearly sets the story in the arctic, the cold, the ice and the warmth of friendship.
Savage once again has amazing illustrations that are filled with chunky shapes, deep textures and shading that makes it stand out. My favorite page in the book has the two small cubs nose to nose, one with a plop of snow on his head.
A nice morning read aloud, this book be a good fit with bear story times or wintry tales. Appropriate for ages 1-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic Press.
Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex
This was not what I had been expecting from Gaiman and Rex, but sometimes surprises can be a delight. Chu is a small panda who has a very big way of sneezing. His parents are always concerned about him being about to sneeze. So when they head to the library and encounter book dust, his mother asks if he’s going to sneeze. Chu starts to “aah-aaah-Aaaah” but then “No.” When his father takes him to a restaurant with pepper in the air, he asks too. Chu goes “aah-aaah-Aaaah” but then “No” once again. When they head to the circus everyone is too busy watching the show to hear Chu say that he thinks he’s going to sneeze and what a sneeze it is!
This is the first book that Gaiman has written for such a young audience. It will be toddlers and preschoolers who adore this book and love the humor that is intrinsic in the writing and its rhythms. The better you can fake the build-up to a sneeze, the funnier the little “no” at the end is. In other words, this is a great one to read aloud.
Rex adds so much with the tight details of the world he builds here. Chu is plush and fuzzy. Whenever he starts to sneeze, his aviator glasses fall down over his eyes, adding an additional comic effect. The detail of the scenes will have children lingering over them, identifying the various animals in the pictures. Personally, the mice using the library card catalog drawers for computer use was the perfect mix of modern and retro.
A rather surprising straight-forward book from Gaiman that is a strong read aloud and filled with laughs. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Fall was ending and winter was coming, but before he hibernated, Bear had a story to tell. Unfortunately, the other animals were too busy to hear the story. Mouse was gathering seeds and when Bear helped Mouse find lots of seeds, Mouse tunneled underground for the winter. Duck was getting ready to fly south and all Bear had time to do was check the wind direction for him and say he would miss Duck before he flew off. Frog too was looking for a warm place to sleep. Bear helped dig a hole for him to sleep in. Mole was already way underground and asleep. So Bear too headed off to sleep. When spring came, Bear still had a story to share. Soon his friends were gathered around him to listen, and you will have to read the book to find out what story he shared!
The husband/wife team behind the Caldecott winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee have returned with a book that has a quiet, contemplative beauty that is haunting. It’s one of those picture books that can be read as a quick bedtime story, but has so much more depth than that. Bear’s rather lonely start to his hibernation also has a series of close connections to friends. His spring wake up is filled with a warmth that echoes the seasonal change.
The writing is gentle and filled with small details that really show the slowing nature of the start of winter. There is time to count the clouds and look at the color of the leaves, at least for Bear. The connections between Bear and his many friends are also written with a richness that adds much to the story. The circular nature of the ending is also an invitation to start the book all over again. One that readers will be happy to accept.
Erin Stead’s illustrations have a beautiful delicacy to them. The rounded shoulders of the very furry Bear show a patience and yet a weight too. There are moments of celebration, when Bear is rolling in the newly lush grass that are filled with cheer. It is especially remarkable near the lonely and poignant image of Bear alone as the first snow begins to fall. Lovely.
It’s the perfect time of year to read this book, ease yourself into the winter months and quietly wish autumn farewell. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
A little boy sits in bed reading a book with his mother. It’s a book about a bear getting ready to sleep for the winter. The boy and his mother share the story together, talking about the pictures and the bear. The bear eats and eats, getting ready to hibernate until he finally curls up and falls asleep. Then the snow comes, and the little boy can almost feel the cold from the page of the book. He looks closely at the pictures and finds hidden animals in the snowy landscape. The snow continues and the boy snuggles in closer, the bear sleeps on. As spring nears, the boy gets sleepy. Just as the bear is about to wake up, the boy falls asleep for the night. Now it’s his turn to sleep long and deep in a cozy bed.
This book is pure joy. It celebrates both the written word and the art of the picture book. Even more so though, it celebrates the connection built by sharing a book right before bed. Just as the boy could feel the winter emanating from the page, here you can feel the warmth and coziness. With my librarian hat on, I am delighted to see a book that models what reading aloud to a small child should look like. There should be conversations about the pictures, questions and answers about what is happening in the story, looking at the colors on the page, finding hidden animals, and much more activity than simply reading a story aloud.
Hallensleben’s illustrations have a gorgeous rough texture to them. The paint is lovely and thick, resulting in rich colors that add to that feeling of warmth and home. They also bridge the connection between the book and the family reading together, flowing seamlessly back and forth, uniting as an entire story.
Highly recommended, this is a book that will have you curled up and sharing it with your own little one immediately. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
The Bear series by Karma Wilson continues to impress with its latest entry. There are only a few children’s picture book series that have maintained the quality of both writing and illustration as this series has. In this latest tale, Bear has an idea to create a big feast and invite his friends over to share. The only problem is that Bear has nothing in his cupboard at all. Mouse shows up with a pie to share, and Bear says “Thanks!” Bear continues to fret that he has nothing to share when Hare pops by with a batch of muffins to share. Badger then arrives with fish, Gopher and Mole bring warm honey nuts, and Owl, Raven and Wren have herbs for tea and pears to munch. But with no food to offer at all, what in the world can Bear give his friends?
I’ve always enjoyed the rhythm of this series and the repetition that makes them ideal to read aloud to toddlers. There is also a wonderful friendly warmth to the books, captured both by the colors of the illustrations and the story itself. That same warmth is here, friends offering food and sharing time with one another with no expectations. Chapman’s illustrations stay true to the series, offering pictures large enough to share with a group.
While this book is perfect for Thanksgiving story times, I’d also use it throughout the year when talking about sharing. This is a bear’s den that any of us would love to crawl into and spend some time in no matter what time of year it is. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff
Baby Bear wakes up next to his mother in the den. Sunlight peeks into the den, warming him and Baby Bear sees yellow. At the entrance to the den, the oak tree waves its leaves at him, and he sees green. The jays in the trees are blue. The trout in the stream is brown. The scent of the strawberries leads him to discover red. The tickle of a butterfly on his fur shows him orange. The storm clouds are gray, but then they leave behind a rainbow. Finally, at the end of his day, Baby Bear sees nothing but black.
Wolff has created a lush and rich picture book that truly celebrates colors in very natural way. All of the elements of color seem unforced and honest. She embraces cadences that roll off of the tongue, giving this book a wonderful rhythm. The patterns create a book that will be loved by toddlers who will enjoy exploring colors alongside Baby Bear.
What makes this book really work are the illustrations that are linoleum block prints painted by hand with watercolor. This creates a combination of strong black line and foundation and then colors that have light and glow on the page.
A top pick for color concepts, this book is a work of art that has plenty of toddler appeal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Maudie and Bear by Jan Ormerod and Freya Blackwood (Link to InfoSoup)
Through five short stories, readers get to know Maudie and her best friend Bear. Maudie is a little girl who is always planning the next thing for them to do. She can be bossy, definitely has opinions, and yet has a charm that is hard to resist. Bear certainly does not resist at all, instead helping Maudie plan their next escapade. The pair have a series of adventures from a bike ride that is more about fashion than exercise to a very Goldilocks-like encounter to dancing under the stars. The two are not without friction, having to apologize occasionally for things that go wrong. They are a cheery pair to read about and one wishes for a Bear of their very own.
Ormerod’s writing is simple and lovely. She captures stories in a few words, selecting them for impact and ease. Then she adds a wry sense of humor and a little twist at the end of each tale that add to the appeal of the book. The friendship of the two is shown as complex yet completely natural. It works particularly well that the friendship is not perfect or easy, but real. The stories have just enough action and interaction in them to make them a pleasure to read, but not too long or too short. Like Goldilocks, these are just right.
Blackwood’s Illustrations are stellar. She captures the winning attitude of the text, creating a book that is welcoming in its obvious warmth and cleverness. The largeness of bear makes one want to cuddle up for days and the ever-moving Maudie is a perfect foil. The two together are the perfect pair, ready for any adventure that comes their way.
Originally published in Australia, this book’s old-fashioned feel combined with its sunny nature is very inviting for young readers. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Gerda Muller
I’m always on the look out for accessible versions of traditional tales. Muller’s version of the three bears adds a delightful mix of tradition and the modern day. The structure of the story remains the same, but Goldilocks is a girl who lives in a caravan and her family travels with the circus. She’s a not a child who understands about knocking on doors! And so she walks into the woods and discovers the home of the three bears. From there, the traditional story picks up. Yet this Goldilocks is innocent of any real wrong-doing and certainly doesn’t understand that she shouldn’t be there. This innocence and naiveté works well in the book, taking her character from a naughty urchin to a young explorer.
Muller’s illustrations are done in an understated color palette with dashes of vivacious reds. The bears’ home is wonderfully traditional with a Dutch door, carved wooden chairs, and matching comforters on the beds in different colors but all with a bee motif. No one will wonder why Goldilocks enters and stays. It is all so very inviting and cozy.
This is a cheery and slightly modernized version of the traditional story that will be welcome in library collections or as a great bedtime pick. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Floris Books.