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More Bear Essentials

In Jerry Griswold's essay "Bears," he reveals "a startlingly fact about the way Kidsworld differs from our own world: among the young and in children’s literature, every tenth animal seems to be a bear." Here we offer some of our favorite Bear tales.

Can't You Sleep Little Bear?Can't You Sleep Little Bear?
Ages: All Ages
Author: Martin Waddell    Illustrator: Barbara Firth Publisher:
Candlewick Press, $14.99 (Hardcover)

In this tender account of a sleepless night in the bear cave, Big Bear sets out with all his patience and understanding to show Little Bear that the dark is nothing to be afraid of. When all the lanterns in the cave aren't enough to quell Little Bear's troubled emotions, Big Bear offers--in a final loving gesture--nothing less than the bright yellow moon and the twinkling stars! Publisher's Description

The Bear Came Over to My House
Ages: 1 - 3 yrs.
Author: Rick Walton    Illustrator: James Warhola
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers/ Grosset & Dunlap, $14.99 (Hardcover)

It's hard to imagine a toddler able to revisit the charms of the clunky bear hero of Rick Walton's breezy nonsense tale. This overweight behemoth arrives on the scene bearing the gift of a swing, and thereby is launched a series of slapstick disasters - all of them sure to delight youngest viewers. (All of them, of course, star the uninvited bear/guest.) Warhola's action-packed pictures couldn't be better, and there is even a subtle bonus: young listeners will become familiar with the present and past tenses of various commonly used irregular verbs. Be prepared for countless re-readings.

Oscar's Starry Night
Ages: 3 - 6 yrs.
Author: Joan Stimson    Illustrator: Meg Rutherford
Barron's Educational Series, $12.95 (Hardcover)

Oscar is a bear who spends the night outdoors with his friend. He has mixed feelings as night falls. Oscar is depicted as an extremely soft bear with luminous eyes. Gently humorous.

Irving & Muktuk: Two Bad BearsIrving and Muktuk: Two Bad Bears
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Daniel Pinkwater    Illustrator: Jill Pinkwater
Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, $15.00 (Hardcover)

The inhabitants of Yellowtooth in the frozen north brighten their long winter by celebrating New Year's Day with a Muffin Festival. The constable, Officer Bunny, takes his duty toward the inhabitants seriously. Irving and Muktuk are ever on the prowl for muffins so Officer Bunny must be ever alert. The two bad bears are always foiled by the bunny. Fortunately for readers, however, bad bears never say die. This cheerfully ludicrous story ends with the villains meeting their comeuppance. Sort of.

The First Bear in Africa!
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Satomi Ichikawa
Publisher: Penguin Putnam Inc./ Philomel, $14.99 (Hardcover)

A remarkably accomplished illustrator, Satomi Ichikawa here makes a part of Africa come alive in her sympathetic watercolor paintings of a small village in the dry grasslands, its people and its animals. The wisp of a story concerns a small girl tourist who visits briefly on a safari with her parents. Alas, she leaves behind her stuffed animal -- a bear; and Meto, the African boy who finds it, succeeds, with the help of the local wild animals, in returning the little beast to its happy owner. It's not the story, but rather the setting and the believable African characters that make Ichikawa's work unusual and well worth looking at.

Bernard on His OwnBernard on His Own
Ages: 5 - 6 yrs.
By: Syd Hoff
Houghton Mifflin /Clarion Books, $5.95 (Paperback)

"Less is more," said who? (Tell you at the end.) And Syd Hoff has for years applied that principle, this time to the story of a little bear who's trying his legs (literally) for the first time in the big world. There are challenges and there are disappointments, but in the end, his mother and father bring him home. And some honey is waiting. Highly skilled color pencil illustrations. (Answ: Robt. Browning)

Goldie and the Three Bears
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Diane Stanley    Illustrator: Diane Stanley
HarperCollins Childrens Books, $15.99 (Hardcover)

In this spirited new version of "Goldilocks," we meet a determined heroine with a mind of her own. Goldie knows exactly what she likes -- and what she doesn't. Can she help it if everyone she invites over is too bossy or too boring or too snobby or too rough? What she desperately wants is a friend who is just right -- someone she can love with all her heart. Then one day, Goldie gets off the bus at the wrong stop, walks to a nearby cottage to find help, and opens the door. . . Publisher's Description

Henry Hikes to FitchburgHenry Hikes to Fitchburg
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: D. B. Johnson    Illustrator: D. B. Johnson
Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, $15.00 (Hardcover)

This cheery first picture book, with appealing full-page pictures in colored pencil and paint, is a variation on the old cautionary tale about the tortoise and the hare. Two bear chums decide to make a trip to Fitchburg. Henry will hoof the distance (some 30 miles), while his nameless friend opts to work until he has "the money to buy a ticket to ride the train to Fitchburg." Each bear achieves his goal, Henry losing the race but gaining a number of happy memories and a pail of blackberries for his train-traveling friend. Children will enjoy the slow-paced contest and probably bet on the wrong bear to win.

The Bravest Ever Bear
Ages: 5 & Up
Author: Allan Ahlberg    Illustrator: Paul Howard
Candlewick Press, $15.99 (Hardcover)

This rambling, and self-indulgent book about bears won't be every child's cup of tea, but sophisticated listeners who know their nursery rhymes and the story of The Three Bears may find Ahlberg's improvisations lots of good fun. Amid the sight jokes and banter, there is a serious question that surfaces: what elements comprise a good story? And when does a story become too much of a story? Some listeners may even be inspired to try bear stories of their own. Paul Howard's freewheeling illustrations are as zany as Ahlberg's manic, slapstick text.


Don't Miss
To identify those species we feel close to, all a zoologist need do is conduct a census of animals in children’s stories. That would reveal a startlingly fact about the way Kidsworld differs from our own world: among the young and in children’s literature, every tenth animal seems to be a bear.


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