The Picture Book Month calendar included Bears as a theme on Nov. 7th. I do at least one bear themed storytime around this time every year. Sometimes, I do more than one, first pairing them with hibernation/sleeping themes, while other times it’s just bears. There are so many great books about bears out there, but the ones I’m featuring today are the ones I used just recently for an outreach visit to several classrooms of preschool and kindergarten kids.

Title: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Author: Michael Rosen
Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury

If you work with young children and you don’t know this book and/or song, SHAME ON YOU! Go out and pick up a copy and learn it right now. And then, check out Michael Rosen’s rendition of the song on Youtube. And then, if you still can, pick up a copy of the pop-up book. Yes, there is a pop-up book floating around out there. It’s absolutely beautiful, simply done but with very sturdy construction for multiple story times. The kids are fascinated by it and I always get questions and comments like “The dog’s going the wrong way” and “The baby’s on the dad’s shoulders” and “Where’s the mom?” and “What does that tab do?” Yes there is no skipping any of the pull-tabs on this one, because your eagle-eyed audience will notice and make you go back and demonstrate what each one does again and again. You need this book, but if you can still track it down, splurge and get the pop-up version, with the swirling snow and the tripping children. You’ll thank me later.

Title: A Visitor for Bear
Author: Bonny Becker
Illustrator: Kady MacDonald Denton

No wonder it got an E.B. White Read Aloud Award. This book begs to be enthusiastically read aloud, although I will warn you that it’s my longest book on this list and it takes a full fifteen minutes sometimes to get through. But the kids will be intrigued by how the mouse keeps getting into the house of this reclusive bear who just wants to eat his breakfast. There are a few repetitive lines that the older kids will pick up immediately and will help you fill in the blanks if you let them. This is another book where kids pipe up with their opinions chastising the bear for turning the mouse away in the beginning and remarking on the “hanging thing” from the bears mouth when he shouts to the mouse to “BEGONE!” And a great vocabulary lesson awaits for readers wondering what “impossible! Intolerable! Insufferable” mean.

Title: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
Author: Don and Audrey Wood
Illustrator: Don Wood

I quite often joke that the title is longer than the actual book, but the Woods pair up for what has become a classic, since my copy boasts a 1984 copyright date. It’s held up remarkably well over the years, and I’m sure scores of librarians and teachers have used this in their storytimes. It tells the story of a little mouse trying to keep his strawberry (that he JUST picked) away from the big hungry bear. We never see the big hungry bear, although in a stroke of design genius we do see the bear’s shadow on the back cover. Proving that you can still look at things in a different perspective, I had one little boy remark that it was the bear who was telling the story. I’m not sure if I agree with him, but he brought up an interesting idea to talk about point of view using this book, and see how many other readers shared his opinion. Great graphics lend themselves to laughter as the mouse tries again and again to hide, disguise, and guard his strawberry, and if you look closely you’ll see relics of each attempt scattered throughout the following pages.

Title: A Splendid Friend Indeed
Author/Illustrator: Suzanne Bloom

Suzanne Blooms series about a goose and a polar bear is different from the rest in several ways. First, it features a polar bear, while most bear stories feature the traditional brown or dark-colored bear. Second, he’s paired with a goose, and the two incompatible creatures end up becoming wonderful companions. Thirdly, the story is told entirely in dialogue, which I’m always impressed by when I stumble across it. Usually the books talk to the readers with third person or first person narration, but in this one Goose and Bear talk directly to each other, without a single “he said” or “she said”. It takes a mature group of children to decipher Bear’s frustrations and Goose’s attention seeking behavior solely by the pictures, but when they do catch on it’s like magic. Due to the simple sentence structure, I usually save it for younger audiences, because although as I said some of it might go over their head, the simplistic drawings are eye-catching to all.

Title: Bear Snores On
Author: Karma Wilson
Illustrator: Jane Chapman

Wilson’s rhymes are longer than most picture books, but it rarely falters as Bear snores on through the slowly building gathering taking place in his cave. It’s when a stray pepper flake gets up his nose and results in a humongous sneeze that the animals freeze and are scared of what Bear’s reaction will be. No worries, since it all ends happily, but Wilson knows how to build suspense with the Bear gnashing and growling at being woken up early. Surrounded by forest creatures, Bears friendship will continue, as this debut book for Karma Wilson turned into a gold mine as she continues the series with “Bear Says Thanks,” Bear Wants More” and several others.

So what about you? What bear books can you never “bare” to be far from?

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