The Little Bear Book
by Anthony Browne; illus. by the author
Preschool Candlewick 24 pp.
5/14 978-0-7636-7007-8 $15.99
Bear sets out on a walk through the forest, pencil in hand. Like Harold’s purple crayon and the girl’s red marker in Becker’s Journey (rev. 9/13), Bear’s writing utensil is a magical one. The lushly illustrated woods are full of disgruntled animals, but Bear fixes everything with his pencil and a little cleverness; for example, he draws a teddy bear for a gorilla to hug. Eventually Bear comes upon a red brick wall (“Hello, Wall”), draws himself a bear-shaped hole, and walks through — “Bye-bye, everyone.” In this simple yet matter-of-factly bizarre picture book first published in the UK in 1988, Browne makes the surreal accessible and appealing for children. His gorgeously detailed illustrations pace the story perfectly, alternating busy, wide forest shots with close-ups of Bear against a white background working his magic. With the exception of the first page’s expository “Bear went for a walk,” the text consists entirely of Bear’s musings, which are reminiscent of a young child at play. “What’s this?” Bear asks when he encounters Elephant’s trunk. Unruffled by the pachyderm’s hostile glare, Bear draws a mouse: “This will take care of you.” That’s our busy Bear: putting out fires left and right, then on to the next mini-drama. Preschoolers will identify with the pragmatic bear and wish for a magic pencil of their own.
From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.