Review: Bear Is Awake: An Alphabet Story by Hannah E. Harrison

Bear Is Awake An Alphabet Story by Hannah E. Harrison

Bear Is Awake: An Alphabet Story by Hannah E. Harrison (9780399186660)

When bear wakes up in his den under a tree, he heads down the road to find a cabin. He rings the doorbell and meets the little girl who lives there. After he devours all of her food, she is rather grumpy, but she has an idea. She gives the bear a hat and they head to town. They first go to the library to listen to stories. Then to the market where the bear must learn to be nice. They head back to the cabin and feast on pancakes together. After some quiet time, the little girl and the bear head back to his den. He is sulky and uncertain, but she helps him along. In the end, he is happily back asleep under a new quilt and with some treats ready for spring.

As with most alphabet books, this one is not about the writing really and features words that match each of the letters of the alphabet. The design of the book is more inventive than one might expect with sometimes multiple words being used or the same word over and over again to convey excitement. The real treat here are the illustrations which are completely winning. The relationship between bear and girl develops quickly with the bear far more hungry than frightening in any scenario. His hesitation to return home at the end also makes him a character children will love rather than fear. The huge bear is drawn realistically and dominates the pages, add the yellow hat with pom poms and he quickly becomes more approachable, though many in town don’t see him that way.

A wintry alphabet book about making new friends. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Review: Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Why by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9780823441730)

A little white rabbit is full of questions for a bear who valiantly tries to answer them all. After each “why?” comes a wise answer about wind, gravity, honey, stars, plants and much more. Finally though, the bear has had enough and heads off home. The little rabbit asks him not to go and now it is Bear’s turn to ask “why” of the rabbit. Rabbit rises to the question and answers it with the same wisdom and patience that Bear has shown all along.

Seeger takes the questions of a toddler and turns it into an engaging picture book. Parents and children alike will recognize the endless questions and the patience it takes to answer them. The turn around at the end of the book adds exactly the right ending to the story. Throughout the book has a pitch perfect tone that makes rabbit’s questions interesting rather than bothersome.

Seeger’s art is lush and lovely. One can almost sink into her greens and blues, they are so deeply colored. She manages to create a friendship from two animals without anthropomorphizing them along the way.

Simple and just right for toddlers and their questions. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.

Review: Bruce’s Big Fun Day by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce's Big Fun Day by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce’s Big Fun Day by Ryan T. Higgins (9781368022811)

Nibbs, the mouse, wants Bruce to have a fun day, but Bruce doesn’t seem to be having any fun at all. Breakfast in bed turns into a messy disaster. The long walk is exhausting. A picnic turns into a feast for the ants. The boat ride is wet, particularly when Nibbs uses Bruce himself as the boat. They do make it back home in time for supper, but supper is too dainty and fancy for Bruce and dessert is even worse. By the time they are in bed, Bruce is very, very grumpy. Which is really nice, since Bruce loves to be grumpy. It might have been the perfect day out after all.

Higgins cleverly turns his picture book series about Mother Bruce into an easy reader format. His use of limited vocabulary is done seamlessly with the story. It helps that there is zany action on many of the pages that can be explained in Higgins’ rather dry tone in just a few words. The illustrations help too. Done in full color and with Higgins’ signature style, they show the story playing out on the page with great clarity and additional moments of silliness.

A great addition to easy reader shelves, this one is big fun. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (9780316464475)

A river flowed through the forest. The river had no idea it could have adventures until a big bear came along. As the curious bear toppled into the river, the adventure began. Soon Bear was joined by Froggy and they both climbed onto a log which headed down the river. Along the way, others joined them too. There was the beaver who could captain, the turtles who were worried about disaster, the raccoons who didn’t know how to be careful, and the duck they crashed into. Then came the waterfall…

Morris has written a book that begs to be shared aloud. From the various personalities of all of the creatures to the shared adventure that is filled with twists and turns, this book is full of fun. Morris uses an interesting turn of phrase throughout the book, with each additional animal and the river itself not knowing what they are capable of. It’s a great lens as each of the animals learns that they are not alone but instead part of a larger community and world.

Pham’s illustrations are zany and ever so funny. He completely captures the personalities of each of the characters as they head down the river. From their body language to their expressions, these creatures are in for a lot of adventure together. The added joy of the maps of the river as the endpages are great. Grayed-out at first, they are full color at the end.

A wild ride of a book that is really all about shared fun and community. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Bear Out There by Jacob Grant

Bear Out There by Jacob Grant

Bear Out There by Jacob Grant (9781681197456)

This second book about Bear and his friend Spider follows Bear’s Scare. Bear is happy staying at home all day, being cozy and warm. Spider though has a kite that he wants to fly, and he loves to be outdoors. When Spider’s kite gets away from him, Spider asks Bear for help finding it. So Bear heads out into the itchy, bug-filled, dirty woods along with his friend. The two search for a long time, Bear completely missing the charm of the woods. When it starts to rain though, the entire adventure gets bleak and disheartening. The two friends though, never quit. They eventually find the kite tangled in the trees. Now can they find a way of compromising and finding some indoor/outdoor fun together?

Grant writes with a great wry sense of humor that really allows Bear to be just as grumpy as he likes without the book ever becoming too filled with complaints. Spider helps in that way too, without saying a word, keeping spirits high and trying to show Bear how lovely the outdoors actually are. The text is simple and the pace is just right for a walk in the woods.

As with the first book, Grant’s art is perfect for sharing with a group. He fills the pages with color and large shapes. Even small Spider can be easily viewed by children seated on the floor. The art is welcoming and simple.

A look at the wonders of nature through the lens of a friendship. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Review: The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes

The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes

The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes (9781541555099)

At night, the Night Bear takes the night bus and heads out searching for his favorite nighttime meal, nightmares. Each type of nightmare tastes different from the others, but equally delicious. “Monsters with hideous eyes taste like burgers and fries.” “Scary pirates being mean taste like strawberries and cream.” On and on the Night Bear munches until he comes to one package of dreams he thinks is completely disgusting! It’s rainbows and unicorns, ick! So the Night Bear heads out to see if he can give it to a dreamer. He discovers a child who is awake in the middle of the night because of a bad dream and exchanges his awful unicorns for the child’s spiders and snakes (that taste like chocolate cake!)

The rhyming here is what makes the book a great success. It has a wonderful galloping pace as well as being filled with delicious surprises as each nightmare has a distinct and fully-described flavor. That pace nicely slows as the bear looks for a child to share the unicorns with and then picks up again at the end. The illustrations are filled with deep colors of night and vivid depictions of the various nightmares combined with the flavors they have.

Whether you find nightmares or rainbows delicious, this book is just the right flavor. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Andersen Press.

Review: Underwear! by Jenn Harney

Underwear by Jenn Harney

Underwear! by Jenn Harney (9781368027939)

A worn out father bear tries to get his little bear into underwear after his bath, but it’s not going to be easy! Told entirely in a rhyming dialogue between the two characters, the story is rollicking and lot of fun to read aloud. Using homonyms for plenty of humor, the little bear asks “Under where?” and then heads into a rhyming series of lines about where the underwear might actually be. When the underwear is finally located, the fun isn’t over as the little bear immediately puts it on his head as hair and also pretends to be superbear! A new change of underwear is necessary after all this fun and then a bedtime story. But even lights out can’t stop the puns.

Full of lots of laughs, particularly for preschool audiences, this picture book seems simple on the surface. Harney though has taken a single rhyme and used it throughout the entire book, weaving in puns and fun along the way. Her rhythms are dead on, her characters speak as individuals, all within a strict rhyming format. Harney’s art is bold and big on the page, making it a great story to share aloud. The expressions on both bears’ faces are funny and often priceless.

A great bedtime romp, this will also make a great closer to any story time. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Disney Hyperion.

Review: When You’re Scared by Andree Poulin

When You're Scared by Andr Poulin

When You’re Scared by Andree Poulin, illustrated by Veronique Joffre (9781771473651)

A little boy is scared to jump down into the water from a branch, even with his mother waiting below to catch him. A little bear cub feels the same way as he considers jumping from a branch into a dumpster. The mother and son each lunch together after swimming. The cub has lunch too, in the dumpster. When the boy goes to throw away their bag of garbage, he meets the mother bear standing outside the dumpster. The boy is scared of the bear, the cub is scared that he can’t get out. Mother and son decide to help the bears and bring a big log so that the cub can climb out, they are all very scared. Their plan works and the day ends with darkness and no one scared at all.

This Canadian picture book addresses the different aspects of fear. It uses the perspectives of both a human child and a bear cub to show that fear is universal. It also demonstrates that fear can be overcome and that doing so can make a positive difference in the world. The book uses words sparingly to tie the two perspectives together, allowing the story to really be told in the illustrations.

The illustrations are done in collage. They are bright and bold, showing the forest setting of the camping site and the dumpster. In certain images, the emotion of fear is shown as obliterating the sunny day entirely. It’s a very effective use of illustrations to convey emotion.

A book about fear that also encourages moving beyond fear to action. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Owlkids.

Review: There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach

There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach

There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach (9780399556661)

The author of The Bear Ate Your Sandwich has returned with a second book about a hungry bear (or two.) Muffin is a bakery cat who solves cases when night falls. He knows all of the night sounds until one night when he hears a “grrrrrrrr” noise. At first he can’t locate the noise, but when he returns to the bakery he discovers the largest mouse he has ever seen! Or perhaps it’s the smallest bear. The sound is coming from the little bear’s stomach. Muffin knows just what to do to solve the problem: he feeds the little bear the bakery treats. Then a second bear shows up, much larger than the first. Could Muffin be in a bear-load of trouble?

Sarcone-Roach writes with exceptional tone and turns of phrase in this picture book. She uses bakery metaphors such as “I slipped into the darkness like icing melting down a hot cake.” The metaphors continue when Muffin meets the bears, giving readers a sense of what they smell like, sound like and even feel like. The story here is clever with a cat whose job might be to solve issues but most likely not by feeding wild creatures.

The art is full of colors with yellows and blues playing against deeper blacks in the shadows. Muffin pops with his orange coat against these colors. There is a playfulness in the illustrations that is particularly effective even with their dark colors and nighttime vibe.

A perfect combination of cat and bears that will leave readers craving sprinkles. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Knopf.