“Bear had a dream. His dream was to make his friends laugh.” But poor Bear has stage fright, and his debut appearance on the Woodland Stage flops. Despondent, Bear goes to the local watering hole, orders a root beer, and says to himself: “What’s the use? I’ll never tell another joke again.” But when hummingbird Emmy, a gifted performer but lousy writer, finds Bear’s crumpled-up list of jokes, she perceives its comedic genius and regales the crowd with an impromptu performance. Bear’s friends, recognizing his work, introduce the two and thus create a symbiotic partnership between two comedians with different skills. There are as many jokes in this book for newly independent readers as small carrots in a class of first graders’ lunch boxes, including puns (“What do little girl cubs wear in their hair? Bear-ettes!”) and play with multiple-meaning words (“What do you get when a bear walks through your vegetable garden? Squash!”) And, like any good joke, several bear repeating, thus speeding up the reading task. Seven chapters divide the narrative into small segments, while the numerous pencil and watercolor illustrations (both full-page and spot art) clarify the action and add depth to characterization. For example, when Bear appears on stage, his deer-in-the-headlights portrait perfectly complements the alliterative text: “His knees knocked. His paws paused. His fur froze.” A honey of a book.
From the September/October 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.