November 17, 2017

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Checking the Bear-omator | SLJ Spotlight on Picture Books

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Bear stories are perennial favorites for the toddler and preschool set to curl up with and these new titles are no exception. Universal childhood experiences like getting ready for bed, making friends, discovering sweet treats and learning to share, or figuring out how to fit in are all made more bearable and fun with these fuzzy protagonists.

Blackburn, Katie. Dozy Bear and the Secret of Sleep. illus. by Richard Smythe. 32p. HarperCollins. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062564269.

PB-SP-Blackburn-DozyBearPreS-K –Dozy Bear doesn’t know how to go to sleep. Mama, Papa, Nana, and Grampy Bear help Dozy find slumber by teaching him to listen to the quiet sounds of the night and by showing him how to practice deep breathing. Meant to be read aloud, the text uses unspecified “tried-and-true techniques” to teach children how to fall asleep. A lot of the success of this selection may depend upon the tone and cadence of readers’ voices. The rhythmic language and the repetition and emphasis of certain words create a tranquil mood. Words such as heavy, cozy, settled, and snuggled encourage body awareness and mindfulness. The mellow illustrations reinforce the text’s gentle progression toward sleep as they transition from the warm colors of sunset into the soft and cool hues of night. Children will appreciate Dozy Bear and his forest friends. Parents whose children struggle to fall asleep may benefit from integrating this story into the bedtime routine. Outside of naptime and bedtime, the title may lack the versatility necessary for general classroom and library use. VERDICT An optional purchase for library collections that already include soothing bedtime tales.–Alyssa ­Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

Na, Il Sung. Bird, Balloon, Bear. illus. by Il Sung Na. 32p. ebook available. Knopf. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399551550.

PB-SP-Na-BirdBalloonBearPreS-K –Bird looks for a friend on his first day in the new forest. He spies Bear but is too shy to introduce himself. Before he builds up the courage to speak to the stranger, Bear finds a handsome though silent red balloon. Bear’s play with Balloon is watched from afar by isolated, lonely Bird. When the wind blows Balloon away, Bird tries to rescue it, but the balloon pops. Bird and Bear now become friends and share great fun. Perspectives change on each spread, as does the placement of figures on the white backgrounds. The result is a dramatic pacing as the tale moves from richly hued spreads to smaller portraits of Bird and Bear on open pages. This simply told tale of unlikely friendships and resilience is as appealing as the creator’s Opposite Zoo and Welcome Home Bear. VERDICT A sweet, endearing tale just right for sharing one-on-one or with small groups.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at ­District of Columbia Public Library

Gavin, Ciara. Bear Likes Jam. illus. by Ciara Gavin. 32p. ebook available. Knopf. Feb. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399551796.

PB-SP-Gavin-BearLikesJamPreS-Gr 1 –Bear and his duck family return in this third installment, which features a sweet lesson about the virtues of foods that don’t come in jam jars. Having never tried such perfect preserves, Bear is astonished at how delicious they are and vows never to eat anything else. He refuses to share, starts to sneak into the pantry at night, and generally begins to worry wise Mama Duck. She insists that her big bear have no more jam until he eats his vegetables. Bear’s subsequent histrionics include lying prostrate, furry paw thrown across his face, convinced “he would become seriously ill.” After a night of hunger pangs, Bear accepts the help of his clever siblings and makes a game of eating his peas, corn, and potatoes. Bear learns to enjoy his jam after a balanced meal and to share with his feathered family. Gavin’s warm watercolor illustrations perfectly play up Bear’s comical proportions in comparison with his duck family. VERDICT A sweet title that’s perfect for storytime and sure to satisfy persistent parents and jam-loving kids.–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Rim, Sujean. Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland. illus. by Sujean Rim. 40p. Little, Brown. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316407441.

PB-SP-Rim-CheeKeeK-Gr 3 –Inspired by her family’s journey from Korea, Rim addresses the challenge of moving to a new community. Traveling by boat across the vast ocean from the Island of Coney, a panda named Chee-Kee Loo and his family come to live in Bearland. Watercolor and collage are used to depict the sometimes daunting process of adjusting to a new land with new rules. Thought bubbles reveal that the residents of Bearland have lots of questions. But what they actually say is, “Hello! It’s nice to meet you, Loo family.” Some plot choices are surprising. Why does Chee-Kee need to help the other bears in order to fit in? Why does he get a ball out of a tree that both bears and pandas could climb? And why does he use bamboo (panda food) to create a pole vault? These questions could be used as a teaching moment. Welcoming new members into the community or the classroom is complicated. What could the bears have done differently? How do we deal with assumptions and questions about newcomers? Be sure to read the backstory provided by the author for a discussion of the topic. VERDICT This is a simple, gentle selection that works as a good conversation starter to nurture empathy and encourage inclusion and a sense of community. Pair it with an interactive exercise to illustrate the important issues introduced.–Eva Thaler-Sroussi, Glencoe Public Library, IL

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

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