Review of The Bear in My Family

The Bear in My Family
by Maya Tatsukawa; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Dial    32 pp.    g
3/20    978-0-525-55582-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-525-55583-4    $10.99

A child asserts that there is a bear in his family, and indeed the illustrations show a little boy sharing space with a large gray creature. “Scary, right?” The bear is loud, bossy, and messy. Though the grownups don’t see it, we do, as the bear roars the protagonist awake, hogs the chips, and effortlessly picks the boy up and dangles him upside down. Viewers may catch on early that the “bear” is in fact an older sibling. A clever family photo shows Mom holding a newborn (whose blanket matches the main character’s sweater) and Dad with a cub on his shoulders; the text reads, “For some reason, my parents think the bear is family.” One day, after being sent outside to play, the boy is sitting dejectedly on a swing. When some bullies arrive, he experiences the upside of having a bear (and big sister) in his corner. The digitally created art “with handmade textures” is spare, with rounded edges and subdued hues that defuse the anger and de-claw the danger. Younger sibs everywhere should relate to our protagonist’s point of view — and to his eventual realization: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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