Let’s Scare Bear

Holiday House. Jul. 2019. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823439539.
PreS-Gr 1–Based on a form of Japanese storytelling, this visually engaging story loses a bit of logic in translation but retains a lot of appeal. Mouse, Fox, Spider, and Snake are about to feast on delicious manju cakes, when Bear passes by and they decide to scare him. Each animal tries and fails, until Bear reveals that his only fear is manju cakes. The animals throw their cakes into his cave and wait. Eventually, Bear emerges, stating “It’s scary how much I love manju cake,” leaving the animals to go make new cakes. The reasoning for scaring bear is flimsy at best, and his slick trick may be lost on young readers. Nevertheless, the text is brief and well paced, with a folklorish storytelling style that reads aloud well with nary a wasted word. The mixed-media, mostly full-bleed illustrations are reminiscent of Eric Rohmann’s work, with heavy outlines, saturated backgrounds, and expressively faced animals. Bear is enormous and dominates the pages, and spider weaves commentary with her silk. Katakawa makes great use of perspective and movement, encouraging page turns and effectively drawing the eye. Fox and Bear each display some pretty scary toothy snarls, but the rest of the illustrations are in good fun.
VERDICT While the story line is slim, the arresting visuals and nicely cadenced text make this an excellent candidate for storytimes. Most libraries will want to add it to their shelves

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