I Know a Bear

illus. by Mariana Ruiz Johnson. 32p. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385386142.
PreS-Gr 2—Soft, whimsical narrative voicing distinguishes this Argentine debut, originally published in France in 2011. The book is akin in illustration style to Jon Klassen's work with its soft tones and gentle charcoal lines and shading, and in poetic tone to Margaret Wise Brown (or more recently to Julie Fogliano). A child recounts the story of a bear that now lives in a zoo but is "From the Land of the Bears/A place both vast and wondrous." The large animal shares his memories of home: "The rivers are like bathtubs./Naps last for months and months./This is what he tells me." Then the tale turns woebegone when the creature pronounces that he cannot go back to the Land of the Bears. The narrator of unknown gender listens, tells, and applies what is learned, enacting a brave act of healing—all because of the reflective thinking required by sharing Bear's story. Very succinct in delivery, but with a profound message of empathy and the power of memory and place. Pair with Peter Brown's Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (Little, Brown, 2013) to get a conversation started about our needs, and those of all animals, for both freedom and for a home.—Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City

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