Continuing Saga of the Bears has the news that despite Stan Berenstain’s death in 2005, the Berenstain series will continue.  Son Mike Berenstain is an illustrator who writes most of the series now.  In the article, he talks about how Dr. Seuss changed his parents’ work:

It was Geisel who advised Mike’s parents, Stan and
Jan Berenstain — primarily cartoonists — to make the Berenstain Bears a
series rather than a single book. The couple had intended to write
about penguins next.

Imagine that!

The Birthday Box

The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli.

Take one look at the cover of the book, and you can get the sense of exactly how this book reads.  It is a friendly, silly, imaginative book about a toddler who receives a box for his birthday.  When he unwraps the paper, he is thrilled to find a box that has a stuffed dog inside it.  He names the dog Oscar and they immediately set off on adventures based on the box. 

My favorite part of the book is the ending where the thrill of having a cardboard box is not broken, but sustained.  Perfect.  I also liked the way that the real present of the stuffed dog is incorporated into the child’s play, but just isn’t the center of it.  The illustrations are cartoony and friendly, perfect for toddlers.

Recommended for toddlers, but make sure to have a large cardboard box on hand in case it inspires them!  This book will work for a group of toddlers as well, because it combines two fascinations:  boxes and birthdays.


Whale by David Lucas.

Joe is asleep in bed when there is a sudden crash and his whole house tips sideways.  It turns out that a huge whale has beached and landed on the town.  No one knows what to do to fix the problem.  Joe asks the Owl who asks the Wind who asks the Sun and finally after a few more steps the Innumerable Stars are consulted.  And the Stars recommend that everyone sing the Rain Song.  Though there are people who don’t think it will work, they try it.  And the whale is free.  The town was still smashed to pieces until the sea creatures come to help.

The art of this book is wonderful.  It has a folksy feel to it that is warm and embracing.  I especially enjoy the pages filled with panels that move the story forward, such as the page where Joe notices the very large eye filling his window.  I also loved the size of the whale being so immense and amazing above the smashed buildings of the town. 

Lubar has written prose that goes beautifully with the art.  It has rhythm that is not intrusive but can still be clearly felt.  The device of asking the Owl, the Wind, etc. for advice ties the story to folktales, deepening the connection with the illustrative style. 

This one will fly off of library shelves due to the huge whale on the cover.  It would be a great addition to story times for Kindergartens and preschoolers on sea life, folktales, or just for fun.  This is definitely worth sharing.