Tag Archive: bears


goodnight already

Goodnight, Already! by Jory John and Benji Davies

Bear is so very tired, all he wants to do is go to sleep.  But his next door neighbor, Duck, feels exactly the opposite and has never felt more awake as he reads a book on staying awake and drinks a pot of coffee.  As Bear climbs into bed and pulls up his blanket, ready to snooze, Duck comes over for a visit.  Duck offers all sorts of ideas of what they could do together, but all Bear wants to do is sleep.  Just when Bear is again about to fall asleep, Duck returns with a new idea to bake something.  But Bear once again sends him on his way.  When Duck comes in for a third time, Bear has had enough!   The evening though has time for one final ironic twist by the end of the book, one that will get readers giggling.

John captures both the very essence of being tired and wanting nothing more than to sleep and the zany energy that comes with insomnia.  It is that dynamic being thrust together in this picture book that leads to the hilarity.  It also helps that John has impeccable comic timing throughout the book, using repeating themes to really make the scenes pop.  The pace switches from one character to the next beautifully, the dozy slow of Bear and the yapping zing of Duck.

Davies’ illustrations capture the same shifts in energy and pace.  Duck’s entire home is bright yellow while Bear is surrounded by sleepy blues.  The silly additions of coffee and a book to stay awake make the situation even funnier.  The illustrations are deceptively simple, making this a very approachable book for children, one that conveys its humor right from the cover.

Perfect for kids who both love bedtime and hate it, as well as for their sleepy parents.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

bear ate your sandwich

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Released January 6, 2015.

This picture book tells the story of exactly what happened to your sandwich.  See, it started with the bear.  He was having a great warm, bright morning when he smelled berries.  He found a pickup truck filled with berries, which he munched and then fell fast asleep in the back of the truck.  When he woke up, he was riding towards a huge city.  Now he was in a new forest, but a very different one.  He climbed, he scratched, he squished his toes in mud, he investigated.  He found a park and that is where he discovered your sandwich sitting on a park bench.  He then ran off, scared by the dogs around, climbed aboard a boat and returned to his own forest.  It’s all true you see, I saw it all.  Don’t you trust me?

The merriment in this picture book is pure joy to share.  And the voice that it is written in is so very earnest and honest, willing you with their very words to really believe them.  It’s so earnest that you immediately know that this is a voice not to be trusted.  But you won’t completely understand who is talking until the very end of the story.   The timing of the humor is impeccable, the writing is wonderfully strong and lovely, evoking a forest in an urban setting and letting the bear discover it. 

The illustrations have a richness to them.  The opening scenes of the bear in the forest play with light and shadows, greens and browns, dappling and shining.  It’s all lush and green and beautiful with the black bear anchoring the beauty around him.  Along the way there are other moments, particularly the ones where the bear investigates the city and then the lingering moments of him discovering the sandwich, approaching the sandwich, longing for it.  It’s all strikingly rendered.

Lush, strong and very funny, this picture book is a delight and just as satisfying as a sandwich for a hungry bear.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Random House and Edelweiss.

sebastian and the balloon

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

A little boy named Sebastian is having a very boring day even though he is up on the top of the roof where he’s never supposed to be.  So he decides to head on a journey.  First, he packs everything he needs, then he heads for the hot air balloon he made from his grandmother’s afghans and quilts.  He sets off and meets a bear next to a leafless tree.  He offers the bear a pickle sandwich and the bear joins him on his journey.  Flying in the fog, they hear a loud pop and find that a bird has flown into the balloon.  They land atop a a colorful worn house where three sisters help them knit their balloon together again.  As the three elderly ladies work, they mention the time that they went over the mountain as children and found a rollercoaster.  You can guess where they all headed next!

Stead has created a quiet and lovely book here.  It is an adventure book, but somehow it is imbued with a gentleness and dreaminess.  Perhaps it is the balloon flight, the drifting and silence and quiet of that mode of transportation.  Or it could be the fog, the friendly bear, and the three grandmothers.  It all adds up to a wonderfully whimsical book that dances along dreamily.

Stead’s illustrations are always a treat.  I love that his protagonist is a little boy of color, someone who glows against the background, who is resourceful, smart and creative.  The three grandmothers, each with their own color that is also represented in their home, are drawn with a humor that is gentle and gorgeous.  The entire book sings of whimsy and imagination.

Ideal for bedtime reading, this book is sure to create dreams of hot air balloon rides and an array of friends.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

sleep tight little bear

Sleep Tight, Little Bear by Britta Teckentrup

Winter is coming and Little Bear and Mommy Bear have been getting their den ready for the cold weather.  Soon it will be time for them to hibernate for the winter and wake up again when the warmth of spring comes.  Little Bear is excited about hibernating, but before he and his mother go to sleep, he has to say goodbye to all of his friends.  Little Bear goes to each animal, wishing them a good winter and they all wish him a good sleep and promising to watch over him as he rests.  As they return to their den, the snow is starting to fall and the winds are blowing cold.  Inside their den, it is warm and cozy and Little Bear is fast asleep before he can even finish saying goodnight to his mother.

First published in Germany, Teckentrup’s picture book celebrates community and diversity without ever using those words on the page.  It is clear throughout the entire book that the bear family is beloved in the woods.  While some of the animals, like Owl, are not so friendly, the others are warmly affectionate to Little Bear.  Many of the animals speak about watching over and taking care of the bears as they hibernate.  They also speak about how different the bears are from them and sometimes briefly say what they will do in the winter.  The messages are subtle and woven into this story about animals.

The illustrations are a strong mix of textured trees and animals and more simple elements that allow the textures to stand out on the page.  One of the first pages in the book shows the entire forest as well as the animals that the bears will be visiting before they hibernate.  It’s almost a map to the story and offer a peek into what will come.

A book about a friendly community of animals, this picture book is perfect for reading on chilly autumn evenings and ideal for a bedtime read.  It will also be a welcome addition to seasonal story times and units on hibernation.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley received from NorthSouth and NetGalley.

i know a bear

I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson

A little girl gets to know a bear who comes from somewhere that he calls The Land of Bears.  Breakfasts there are sweet as honey, the land is vast, and the rivers are lovely for swimming.  Even the naps are better there, they go on for months.  But he can never return there, since he is in a zoo.  So the little girl has an idea, something that will let him feel a connection with the wilderness and something that she can set free.  It’s a powerful idea too.

Johnson tells this story in very short sentences, which one might think would be terse but instead feel slow and Zen-like.  It is a book about a girl who is forging her own connections with animals, making her own decisions too.  There are no adults in the story, just one little girl and one huge hairy bear.  It is a book about small choices making a big difference in the world.  It is simple and luminous.

Johnson’s illustrations have a wonderful light touch to them.  The pages with the huge bear can be dark and filled with fur, but then the book opens to a new page filled with white and lightness.  They are studies in contrast but also create a book that is a joy to read through with changes of feel from one page to the next.

An empowering story about one little girl and her connection with one big bear and the beauty of freedom.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.

three bears in a boat

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

The co-creator of the Ladybug Girl series returns with a completely different type of book.  It is the story of three little bears who accidentally break their mother’s favorite blue seashell, so they set off to find her a new one.  Along the way they meet other bears on boats but only one can give them any advice about finding a blue seashell, they need to look for a hat-shaped island and then look in the right place.  As they travel, the bears look and look for a blue seashell, but don’t find one.  Once they give up hope, they start to argue and as they fight a storm blows up around them.  They may be forced to return home to Mama empty handed, and after all, their mother is a bear!

Soman has created an exceptional picture book.  It hearkens back to many classic picture books, particularly ones by Maurice Sendak like Where the Wild Things Are and the Little Bear series.  It also has ties to the three bears, Beatrix Potter and even Melville.  But best of all, it reads like it is a classic already, one that will be shared with children for years, and very rightly so.  The story arc is brilliantly crafted, moving the story forward and also coming full circle, returning the bears in time for a warm supper with Mama.  It is so strongly built that there is a sense of coming home when reading the story, but also one of surprise and delight at discovering it.

Soman’s art is extraordinary:  from the faces of the little bears that show every emotion clearly despite the fur to the landscapes that are like opening a window to the ocean.  There are page turns where you simply sit for a moment and linger, looking at the new vista before you until you are ready to read the words on the page. 

A top Caldecott contender, this picture book feels like returning home to Mama after a long trip at sea.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

brother hugo and the bear

Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe, illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Brother Hugo’s library book is due, but he can’t return it because it was eaten by a bear!  So Brother Hugo is instructed that he must create a new copy of the book.  First, Brother Hugo has to go to the monastery of the Grand Chartreuse where they have a copy of the book.  On the way, he can hear the bear snuffling behind him, but manages to reach the monastery and safety in time.  On his return to his own monastery, he can hear the bear snoring in his sleep, so he hurries back.  Then the real work begins, but he has the help of his fellow monks.  They must get a sheepskin, stretch it and scrape it, get parchment paper, and get them ready to write upon.  Then comes making the pens and inks that will be required.  Finally, Brother Hugo must sit and copy the book word for word.  Finally, the book has to be bound.  As he worked, Brother Hugo could hear the bear and the snuffling.  When the book was completed, the monks offered Brother Hugo a clever way to get to Grand Chartreuse safely despite the word-hungry bear, but even with their help Hugo finds himself face-to-face again with the great beast looking for books.

In this book, Beebe has created a fascinating look at the treasure and value of books and the efforts that it once took to create them by hand.  By inserting the question of the bear into the book, the story moves ahead very effectively, offering a nice plot point in what could have been a much quieter tale of book making.  The bear also offers a touch of humor into the story, for even those of us who agree that books and words are as sweet as honey will be amazed at this bear’s appetite for books.

Schindler’s art incorporates word art that hearkens back to illuminated texts such as the one that Brother Hugo recreates in the book.  Done in fine lines and with precision, the art is detailed and adds much to the story.  I particularly enjoy the scenes of Brother Hugo crossing the countryside, because they clearly evoke a different time and place.

This historical fiction nicely incorporates how books were once made into a tale filled with gentle humor and one hungry bear.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

goose the bear

Goose the Bear by Katja Gehrmann

In a Canadian forest, Fox stole an almost-hatched goose egg, planning to eat roast goose very soon.  But he is so proud of himself that he forgets to watch where he’s going and runs right into Bear.  Bear picked up the egg from the ground after Fox ran off and wondered what it is.  Then the gosling hatched and called him “Mama!”  Bear tried to explain that they were not the same type of animal, but the gosling did not understand.  So Bear decided to show the little goose just how different they were.  Bear demonstrated how well bears climb trees, but the gosling could reach the top too.  Bear showed how fast bears can run, but the little goose ran just as quickly.  Finally, Bear jumped in the river and the little goose followed him in.  Then Bear got very worried.  Would the little creature survive the fall into the water?

Gehrmann has created a picture book that stands out from the many books about foxes chasing smaller animals.  Her addition of a bear as a main character adds a clever twist and throughout the book she continues to surprise the reader.  The writing has been done to create a read-aloud that will also keep young readers guessing about what is going to happen next.  With the theme of a tiny creature who can do just what a big bear can do, this book has strong kid appeal.

The premise of the book is quite unique and so is the artwork.  First published in Germany, the book has a European feel, particularly in the art.  It is humorous and bold with changing colors throughout.  Gehrmann’s depiction of the natural world around the characters is particularly rich and layered.

Fresh, vibrant and full of fun surprises, this book is an exceptional take on fox and goose (and bear) stories.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

baby bear

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson

Nelson returns with a picture book about a lost baby bear that showcases his luminous art work.  Baby Bear is lost and can’t find his way back home.  So he asks different animals about how to find his home again.  Mountain Lion suggests that he figure out how he got here.  Frog is rather busy, but tells Baby Bear not to be frightened.  The Squirrels suggest that he hug a tree.  Moose tells Baby Bear to listen to his heart.  Owl reassures him and Ram encourages him to climb high and keep walking.  Finally, Salmon leads him across the river and Baby Bear is home. 

Nelson writes with the tone of a folktale, a measured pace and a strong structure of questions and answers.  Told entirely in dialogue between the animals, the setting and action is left to the gorgeous illustrations to explain.  My favorite moment is the ending of the book where there is no family to meet Baby Bear, no structure of “home” for him to return to, just an understanding and a pure moment of realization that he IS home. 

Nelson’s art is stunningly lovely.  He uses light and perspective to really show the story.  We see Baby Bear from different angles, one amazing double-page spread just has a close up of his eyes with the moon reflected in them.  Each page is a treat visually, each building to that moment of already being home.

Shimmering and lush, this picture book will open discussions about what home is, mindfulness and following one’s heart.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

come back moon

Come Back, Moon by David Kherdian, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian

In this quiet book, Bear blames the moon for not being able to fall asleep.  So he pulls it out of the sky.  Fox notices that the moon is gone and so do Skunk, Opossum and Raccoon.  Crow asks Fox why he doesn’t know where the moon is, since he’s so clever.  So Fox takes them all to talk to Owl who is wise.  Owl knows where the moon is, since he saw Bear take it.  So they head off to retrieve the moon from Bear.  But how will they get it away from him?

This book has a wonderfully clear and simple story line that makes it ideal to use with toddlers.  It also has a deep quiet to it that will work for good bedtime or naptime reading.  Kherdian uses repetition throughout the story, having the different animals share ideas and echo back decisions. 

Hogrogian’s art also has that simple style.  She has wonderful images like the one on the cover that speak to the darkness and loss of the moon.  Her animals are realistically depicted and appear against white or tan backgrounds with few details. 

There is a place for quiet books for small children and this one has just enough activity to keep it moving too.  It would make a great board book.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

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