Review of Bear Is Awake!: An Alphabet Story

Bear Is Awake!: An Alphabet Story
by Hannah E. Harrison; illus. by the author
Preschool    Dial    32 pp.    g
11/19    978-0-399-18666-0    $17.99

In this diverting alphabet story, a bear wakes too early (it's the dead of winter) from hibernation, heads to a girl's cabin in the woods, rings her doorbell—and a friendship is forged. No full sentences or dialogue here; words beginning with each letter of the alphabet are presented alone (doorbell) or in phrases (enter excited). Both capital and lowercase versions of each letter are featured on every page. Included are some delicious words for readers to try out—intrigued, oblivious, outlandish, wistful. Harrison's richly colored gouache illustrations are expressive, with much being conveyed in the pair's body language. The girl puts a yellow knit hat on her new friend and they walk into town to explore (the library, the market, etc.), alarming residents along the way. There are moments of mischief (bear hungrily attacking the girl's breakfast); humor (bear clinging to a branch as the girl tries to lead it back to its cave); and subtle poignancy as the girl successfully brings the bear home and says goodbye. The book meets the x challenge of any alphabet book, with the girl planting multiple kisses (X x x x x) on the creature's nose. The note she leaves for the bear ("See you in the spring!") guarantees that this friendship isn't coming to an end. A sunny seasonal story to brighten a cold winter's day.

From the January/February 2020 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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