Review of Bear Came Along

Bear Came Along
by Richard T. Morris; illus. by LeUyen Pham
Preschool    Little, Brown    40 pp.
6/19    978-0-316-46447-5    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-46445-1    $9.99

This boisterous adventure is a story about discovery, the twists and turns a day can take, and the ways in which friendships can be forged when least expected — all in the form of a wild log-ride down a river. Morris kicks things off: “Once there was a river,” giving the story a timeless feel right from the start. The river “didn’t know it was a river” untilBear shows up. Bear doesn’t know he’s on an adventure untila frog leaps onto his head. Froggy isn’t aware how many friends she has untilsome turtles show up. And so it goes untilBear, Froggy, the Turtles, Beaver, the Raccoons, and Duck all plummet over a waterfall in an exhilarating vertically oriented spread. Morris’s pacing is spot-on, many page-turns propelled by the enticing use of “until…” Pham’s illustrations, rendered via watercolors, ink, and gouache, have a somewhat retro feel (think 1980s cartoons) yet remain fresh. A cool teal dominates the palette, and the characters have particularly expressive eyes. Occasionally, the action is divided into panels, enhancing the story’s already dramatic pacing. Playful perspectives abound, especially a gasp-inducing one just as the creatures reach the waterfall and descend. Morris brings the text full-circle with mention of the river: the animals — exhausted but ecstatic at the base of the waterfall — were “living their separate lives, but they didn’t know they were in it together…until…the river came along.” This high-spirited tale is a metaphor for life itself, and “Oh, what a ride” it is!

From the May/June 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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