More Ruzzier: Bear and Bee

bear and bee More Ruzzier: Bear and BeeOn Wednesday, Martha posted about Sergio Ruzzier’s Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? (written by Eve Bunting). Ruzzier has another book getting some award buzzzz this year: Bear and Bee.

Ruzzier’s pen-and-ink line is distinctively his: simultaneously elegant and casual, they add a sense of motion, even to basic horizon lines. His playful, shaky lines breathe life into the art while the digital colors he adds later are calmly flat. His faces are simple but expressive with eyebrows that make the most of his wobbly lines.

The plot: Bear wakes up after his winter hibernation, looking for something to eat. A bee pops up behind a tempting beehive and offers him some honey. He demurs because he is afraid of bees — even though he has never seen one. Bear believes bees are big and scary with large teeth and sharp claws. Bee points out that Bear has described himself, leading Bear to fear that he is a bee. When Bee reveals himself (or herself?) and again offers honey, all is tidily resolved. The clear moral about prejudice and false assumptions will probably please adults looking for easy messages, but it feels a tad preachy to me.

I love the way Ruzzier draws and animates the two characters in this book: innocent Bear, large and bumbling; savvy Bee, small (but larger than nature) and energetic. Both are unclothed except for their shoes: Birkenstock-like red sandals for Bear and zippy high-tops for Bee. Perfect.

The outdoor setting keeps things simple. There’s green grass below and blue sky above, with just enough vegetation to add interest without overwhelming the characters. Compared to the satisfying clutter in Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?, this art might seem too clean or even sparse to be called “distinguished,” but consider the audience and the focus. In Socks, visual misdirection is necessary for the plot. If Bear and Bee had more clutter, it would take focus away from the main characters and their conversation.

Can books this simple win the Caldecott? Do you think the prominent message helps or hurts Bear and Bee’s chances?

During deliberations, the Caldecott committee is not supposed to compare an illustrator’s books to his or her previous titles, except when those books are published in the same year and are both eligible. Last year, Jon Klassen was honored for two books, but that’s rare. It’s more likely that the committee will be looking at Ruzzier’s books side by side and deciding which is more award-worthy. Is it fair to compare these two? Or is it too much like comparing apples and oranges?

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Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the designer and production manager for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.

Comments

  1. I have read this book (and Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?) so many times now, and I am still in awe of them both. I think what might initially look like simplicity is actually just the essence of a picture book. There are picture books where few words convey rich character, plot, and emotion, and I am continually so amazed at Sergio Ruzzier’s ability to show so much in so little. You touch on it already — the contrast between Bear and Bee, and how their personalities are shown so clearly and so simply.

    Plus also I love that they are wearing shoes.

  2. Bear and Bee or Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? It’s hard to choose. I am head over heals for Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? The paintings are sumptuous, and there is so much room in them for the imagination to roam around in as you are caught up in the hunt for the missing socks. The icing on the cake is the little surprises strewn about, each with it’s own story, that catch you as you’re scanning every inch for any sign of the socks. However, as much as I love the Bunting/Ruzzier collaboration, I throw my hat in the ring for Bear and Bee. Not just because Maurice Sendak bee-lieves in it, but because Ruzzier pulls of such a witty intelligent tale with such simplicity. What hit’s it out of the park for me the humor and playfulness of the words and pictures together that I feel are the exact dose of thoughtfulness and silliness that children find hard to resist.

  3. Patty Kreutzer says:

    “Can books this simple win the Caldecott?”
    Henke’s “Kitten’s First Full Moon” was as simple as “Bear and Bee,” I think, in terms of both storytelling and illustration.

  4. Bear and Bee or Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? It’s hard to choose. I am head over heals for Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? The paintings are sumptuous, and there is so much room in them for the imagination to roam around in as you are caught up in the hunt for the missing socks. The icing on the cake is the little surprises strewn about, each with it’s own story, that catch you as you’re scanning every inch for any sign of the socks. However, as much as I love the Bunting/Ruzzier collaboration, I throw my hat in the ring for Bear and Bee. Not just because Maurice Sendak bee-lieves in it, but because Ruzzier pulls of such a witty intelligent tale with such simplicity. What hit’s it out of the park for me the humor and playfulness of the words and pictures together that I feel are the exact dose of thoughtfulness and silliness that children find hard to resist.

  5. To repeat two sentences already posted on Goodreads:
    When I closed the cover of this book on my first reading, I actually hugged it. Bear’s unfounded fears and Bee’s kindness are a perfect match.
    To me the narrative flows at an impeccable pace; the conversational exchange between Bear and Bee is a growth from not knowing, to disbelief and ultimately wonder all revealed by Bee’s questions and observations. I usually burst out laughing on the page when Bear asks “Do you share your honey?” It’s the look on Bear’s face when he realizes Bee is safe and his hunger is still present.
    I am a fan of those books using the endpapers to extend the story as Sergio Ruzzier does in this title; no two snowflakes alike on the opening papers and the yellow stars on the closing papers. Before the text even begins he has taken Bear from winter to spring in the first six pages. ” It’s as if we’ve heard once a upon a time and we get to begin right away; as it should be.” (quote from my review)
    One of the most important things, to me, about Sergio Ruzzier’s work is as Julie says, in his ability to convey so much with his adept use of line. His color palette plays a role in taken us from one season to the next, from day to night. Plus those spots of red draw the reader right into the pages.
    Six months later, I love it as much as the very first time.

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