Bear in Love

August 2012. 40p. 978-0-76364-456-4. 15.99.
PreS–A bear awakes in his cave one morning and goes outside to look for food. On a rock nearby is an orange, pointy thing with green leaves at one end. He ventures to eat it and finds it, “Very good, yum, yum, yum; Very good indeed.” After two more carrots are left on his rock, the bear decides to reciprocate with a something of his own–a honeycomb. He also tries to stay awake to see who the mysterious someone is who is leaving him presents, but he falls asleep instead. After two more exchanges, the bear and a shy bunny finally meet and contentedly share their mutual love of songs and food, on their way to what looks like a beautiful friendship. Pinkwater demonstrates a deft gift for writing for very young children, and the book is made more special by Hillenbrand’s lovely pastel illustrations. They show the bear in the foreground in solid but subdued color against a delicate, barely discernible pattern of gray blue trees (and an occasional glimpse of bunny ears). The bear and the rabbit are very appealing, and the book as a whole begs to be read in storytime, possibly with other tales of unusual friendships.–Judith Constantinides, formerly at East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA
Bear awakens one morning to find something "orange and long and pointy" on the rock outside his cave, and wonders who left it for him. Even the youngest readers will recognize the gift as a carrot, and may even deduce it was left by a rabbit. But Bear is more romantic than worldly; he has to solve the mystery step-by-step by leaving a series of gifts for his secret admirer and then waiting to see who comes to claim them. Each step is described in short declarative sentences, ending in a joyous four-line Pooh-like song ("Sticky honey / Nice nice / Sticky honey / Nice nice"), and in the end it's Bear's songs that attract shy Bunny, recognized by Bear as "some cute little bear." Hillenbrand's soft earth-toned illustrations give us a sense of a cozy natural setting while his ragged bold lines give Bear a scruffy edge that keeps the story from being overly sweet. They are a perfect match for Pinkwater's text, which is child-friendly in its predictable and sprightly repetition, with just a tinge of adult humor now and then. ("‘Those things you first left,' the bear said. ‘Carrots,' the bunny said. ‘They are much favored by bunnies.'") All of these ingredients will make it perfect for reading aloud, either to groups or to an audience of one, again and again. kathleen t. horning

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