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.
Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins (9781541561922)
This nonfiction picture book explores hibernation and other forms of dormancy in cold weather. The book looks not only at animals, but at trees as they enter their own dormant winter period. Ladybugs gather together for warmth and pause until spring. Ground squirrels hibernate, shivering for hours to keep warm. Chickadees slow their hearts and pause on cold nights until the next day. Alligators sink into the mud. Earthworms go dormant during a drought until water returns. Then when water or warmth comes back, everyone returns to full life once again.
The breadth of subject matter here is impressive and makes the book far more fascinating than just being about hibernation. The writing is poetic with recurring phrases that call for the dormant species to pause… and the reader will naturally do the same. Each creature is approached in a similar way, making for a book that reads well aloud and also creating a cohesiveness that this broad a subject requires. The book ends with definitions of different types of dormancy and a bibliography for further exploration of the subject. The photographs in the book come from collections such as Getty Images and stock photos. They work well here, offering glimpses of the species dormant as well as active.
An interesting science book that will share well with a group. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press.
Bear Is Not Tired by Ciara Gavin (InfoSoup)
This is the second book featuring Bear and his adopted family of ducks. In the first book, the bear and ducks had to figure out a home that worked for all of them. In this follow up, bear is getting steadily more and more sleepy as winter approaches. But ducks don’t hibernate and Bear worried about missing out on things throughout an entire season. So Bear decided not to sleep, but the ducks started to notice that Bear was acting differently. Bear tried and tried to stay awake, but nothing seemed to work. Finally Mama Duck pulled Bear aside and promised that if he slept through the winter, he would not miss a thing. And it was true!
Gavin has written another winning picture book about the unusual pairing of a family of ducks and a solitary bear. Here the story focuses on Bear and his unique need to sleep through the cold months. It’s a story that will speak to families who have people who respond differently to things, who like different activities, but still want to be with one another. Perhaps the ducks’ ways of including Bear in everything despite him being asleep will inspire new ways of thinking for human families to stay close even when they are doing different things.
Gavin’s art work has a lovely gauzy quality to it, giving Bear his huge softness. Meanwhile the little ducks are done in firmer lines. All of them have personalities that brighten the page and enhance the story. The little ducks are all characters, and it is clear through their body language alone how much all of the animals love one another.
A lovely winter read, perfect for curling up on a cozy couch or snuggled at bedtime. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Goodnight, Grizzle Grump! by Aaron Blecha
Grizzle Grump is a huge bear who is ready to hibernate for the winter, but he has to find the right quiet place to do that. He’s so big that even his yawns can blow the other animals around. He tries to sleep in the trees first, going through an elaborate ritual of scratches, wiggles and flopping. Then he is asleep and snoring until the noises of the woodpeckers wake him up. He heads off to find another spot. But when he sleeps near the stream, the beavers are too loud. The gloomy swamp seems like a good choice until the frogs start to croak. He finally finds a snowy cave, far from everyone else. Then it is his turn to make huge snoring noises that drive everyone else away.
Blecha has created a great book to share aloud with a group. The humor is flawlessly presented in a way that makes it effortless to share. The ritual that Grizzle Grump goes through each time will have children giggling and is also something that you can get the audience to participate in. Inventive story time librarians will have children help make the noises of the woods and swamp with hands and feet.
The illustrations add to the humor from the bucktoothed squirrel who watches it all to the frenzied reaction of the bear every time he is woken once again. The wild energy of the story line is reflected in the illustrations with the noises themselves part of the art. Even the proportions of the huge bear and his little blanket and pillow add to the humor.
A glorious read aloud for autumn months or any bedtime, this picture book is a silly and cheery delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Finding Spring by Carin Berger
Maurice is a little bear cub who can’t stop thinking about spring. It may be time for him to go to sleep in the warm cave with his mother, but he stays awake and sneaks out of the cave to search for signs of spring. As he heads through the forest, he meets other animals all busily preparing for the winter. They don’t have time to talk to him for long but find time to warn him that spring’s arrival will take some time. Maurice smells something new on the air and runs towards it, thinking it is spring. When a snowflake falls, he is sure it is spring arriving so he scoops up some snow to keep spring with him and heads back to his mother to sleep. When he awakes in the warmer weather though, his piece of spring has disappeared. But in the end, Maurice manages to find spring all around him.
This picture book has a very simple story with elements that children will relate to. From not wanting to go to bed to the beauty of nature, this book celebrates it all. It is a book of curiosity, adventures and making your own discoveries along the way.
What makes this book exceptional are the illustrations. Berger works in cut paper and collage, creating dioramas that have dimension and shadows. The cut paper contains fragments of words and lovely textures. I particularly love the reverse side of a letter on gray paper being the flowing water in a stream. Throughout the book there are touches like this that work beautifully visually and are artistically inspired.
A lovely new springtime read, this picture book celebrates the seasons of winter and spring side by side. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.