Review of Let's Scare Bear

Let’s Scare Bear
by Yuko Katakawa; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Holiday    40 pp.
7/19    978-0-8234-3953-9    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-4294-2    $10.99

A quartet of woodland creatures—a mouse, fox, spider, and snake—are enjoying afternoon tea, including their favorite sweet manju cakes (steamed buns filled with red bean paste), when they are startled by the heavy footsteps of a bear passing by. Playfully, they decide to try and scare the bear. Fox flashes his teeth, spider traps the bear in a web, snake wraps him in her coils, and mouse yells “boo”—all only to be rebuffed and laughed at. Then the bear lets them in on the secret of his deepest fear: manju cake. The animals return with their confections and lob them into the bear’s cave, anticipating success and surprised by the creature’s reaction: “It’s scary how much I love manju cake.” Based on a story called “Manju Kowai” or “Scared of Buns,” from the Japanese oral storytelling tradition of rakugo, Katakawa’s picture-book version is entertainingly presented. The forest-set mixed-media illustrations reward close inspection with clever details (e.g., the snake’s teacup is perched on her head—and she wears glasses). Bear is large but deft in his movements; readers will likely appreciate his cunning in earning a tasty treat but will also see the potential for friendship, as the smiling animals all appear to be having fun.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Ariana Hussain

Ariana Hussain is a teacher librarian at the Blake School in the Minneapolis metropolitan area. She writes for Kirkus and School Library Journal and is a founding member and blogger for Hijabi Librarians ( She is a lifetime member of APALA.

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