Review of Five Bears

Five Bears Five Bears
by Catherine Rayner; illus. by the author
Preschool    Boxer Books    32 pp.
4/24    9781915801791    $18.99

A black bear is “quietly walking along, just being a bear.” When Bear encounters a fuzzy brown bear, he is immediately wary, though the Other Bear is perfectly pleasant: “Just saying hello.” Bear, less prickly now, decides to follow the Other Bear. The two come across a defensive panda: “What do you want from me?” Bear and the Other Bear wish Grunty Bear a good day and amble on; Grunty Bear (“looking a little embarrassed”) joins them. A Very Big Bear tells the three to “go away…I don’t know you”; they reply, “Okay then. Well, good to meet you.” With each encounter, a surly newcomer is disarmed by the others’ unflappable friendliness. Rayner’s relaxed line work exudes calm confidence, and the initially antagonistic bears aren’t threatening, just grumpy. The compositions focus on the characters, with little background detail and plenty of white space. After the group helps a growly polar bear stuck in a tree, the now Unstuck Bear (who’s “never actually spoken to another bear”) asks why they helped. “Some things are hard on your own.” Unstuck Bear wonders why the “all very different” bears are together. The simple answer: “We all just like each other!” Sure, the message isn’t subtle, but it’s one worth sharing, and the gently humorous tone and lighthearted illustrations offer it in a winning package.

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kitty Flynn

Kitty Flynn is reviews editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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