As I was sifting through the nominees for the Fiction Picture Books in Cybils 2012, I smiled when I noted a number of bear books in the list. I am glad to have found several in our libraries.
Baby Bear Eats the Night
Story By: Anthony Pearson
Illustrated by: Bonnie Leick
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2012
Book borrowed from the public library.
This is a charming sweet story about a little bear who is afraid of the dark and so he decided to eat the night. Kids who are reluctant to sleep on their own or may be afraid of night time would be able to relate to Baby Bear’s anxieties and what he thought would be the best way to let go of his fear. The theme of this book reminded me a little bit of the Caldecott Honor book Hildilid’s Night by Cheli Durán Ryan and Arnold Lobel – although Baby Bear is fairly more straightforward and simpler in its narrative and storytelling style.
Since “the night was a blanket that covered everything” – Baby Bear climbed the highest tree he could find, ripped the sky apart and started munching the stars, the moon, and the darkness all around. Little did he realize that there are creatures who needed the night skies to skitter around the forest, find food and shelter, and to survive. After a visit by the Field Mouse, the firefly, and the bat, Baby Bear realizes his folly. How he was able to let go of the darkness and find light within him, I shall leave for you to discover.
Story By: Meg McKinlay
Illustrations By: Leila Rudge
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2011
Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.
This book could have easily been a part of our books-about-books bimonthly theme had I known about it earlier. Ella is a little girl who is sick and tired of books about bears. She is in charge of this book and her number one resolution is to have absolutely no bears in this story. Of course, there would have to be a Once Upon a Time, Happily Ever Afters, and The End but anything that is remotely connected to bears would have to go to the Bear Book Recycling Bin – no question about it. Ella is pretty decisive that way.
I enjoyed how there is a book within this book, peppered with Ella’s commentary on the side and with her little-girl voice very apparent in the storytelling of a book with .. as you can very well predict by now.. no bears:
There were NO BEARS in the castle, and there were NO BEARS in the village. There were NO BEARS in the whole entire kingdom or the next one or the next one. There were NO BEARS in the deep, dark forest in the faraway lands.
It reminds me of how very young children could not keep any secret to themselves. And how we are as defined by the things we do not like as the things that we do love. I enjoyed the intertextuality in the narrative and the juxtaposition of what Ella is convinced the story is about as contrasted to what really happens as evident in the illustrations. A lot of layers that can be explored here with young children.
Bear In Love
Story By: Daniel Pinkwater
Illustrated By: Will Hillenbrand
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2012.
Borrowed from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
I wanted to save this book for Valentine’s Day which is just two weeks away, but since we’re having a bear-theme here, I might as well include it in this list. I have read Daniel Pinkwater’s Lizard Music, an NYRB book, and am quite familiar with his writing. This is the first time though that I have read a picture book written by him. And just like Bear, I fell in love.
In essence, Bear has a secret admirer who leaves sweet little treats for him outside “on the flat rock in the clearing outside his cave.” At first, it was a single carrot – tasty, orangey, and oh-so-crunchy and yummy. The next day, there were two carrots! And there were three the next evening! And a whole bunch of them the following night! The thought that a special someone is leaving such crunchylicious treats for him has made Bear feel all warm and fuzzy and he rummaged around to leave treats for this “secret admirer.”
When Bear found a honeycomb that he enjoyed immensely, he made sure that he did not eat everything up, and left the most part of it in the flat rock – their special place. He wanted to stay awake and sneak around to see who is this kind soul who gives him little gifts, but despite himself, he fell fast asleep. When he woke up the next morning, the honeycomb was gone, and a single flower was in its place. Now call me mushy, but this made me go ‘aww.’
This is a book to fall in love with. I am sure that young children would be all over themselves trying to figure out exactly who this ‘secret admirer’ is, and would probably gently shake Bear awake in the evenings when he couldn’t help but fall asleep while waiting around for this special friend to sneak in and leave those thoughtful treats. It brought me back to those memories of youth: the flush of a new romance, the sweet little gestures that signify longing, and the teeny-tiny little things that show that you are loved and thought about. Who this secret admirer is, I shall leave for you to discover.
Bear Has a Story To Tell
Story By: Philip C. Stead
Illustrated by: Erin E. Stead
Publisher: Andersen Press, 2012
Borrowed the book from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
I found out about this book through friends from the kidlitosphere who were raving about how lovely this picture book was. And now I understand why. With crisp Autumn leaves as its backdrop, and Winter about to put all creatures into deep months-long slumber, this gentle Bear asks his friends this question “Would you like to hear a story?” Mouse, however, is busy gathering seeds to prepare for the winter while Duck is about to fly south, and Frog needs to find a warm place to sleep while Mole is already fast asleep.
I could not help but smile at Bear’s gentle nature and his infinite patience as he thoughtfully helps Mouse gather food, checks the wind for the best direction for Duck to fly into, and lovingly makes a “blanket of leaves and pine needles” for a “frog-sized hole between two evergreens” for Frog.
Rather than whine and pout and scream for his story to be heard, the reader sees Bear’s selflessness as he tucks that story within him for the whole of winter, quietly simmering in his gentle soul to be shared in the coming of spring, with the greens all around him, his friends eager to finally listen to what he has to say. I loved how the story ends the way it began – only this time, Bear has his friends to whisper to under the moon-lit skies. What the story is, I shall leave for you to discover. Definitely my favorite in this little list. Here is a book trailer of Bear has a Story to Tell that I got off Youtube. Enjoy!
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