Some years you notice mini-trends in books. Ninjas. Water tanks of the New York skyline. Oceans. Yetis. And then there are the constants. Bedtime. Animals that say the wrong thing. Alphabet books. And BEARS. Always, there are bears.
Why bears? In some cultures, the bear signifies strength, courage, and power. A bear can seem very human-like, walking on two legs, catching food with those hand-like paws. In heraldry, the bear can mean strength, cunning, healing, and bravery. There’s mama bear, protecting her cub at all costs. Humans just seem to love and revere the bear.
This year, there are several bear books that made me take note. If you read this blog regularly, you already know my love for Finding Winnie. The Bear Ate your Sandwich is getting a lot of love, and I do like that surprise ending as well as the illustrations. There’s a little toy bear in Kevin Henkes’ Waiting, another of my favourites this year. These books are already winning some of the Mock Caldecott elections being held.
Have you seen Bear and Bunny, by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand? Pinkwater can certainly tell a fine story, and this one has just the right amount of absurdity for my tastes. Hillenbrand wryly extends the characters with a pastel palette of mixed-media, creating the perfect world for these fine friends. And in Lily and Bear, Lisa Stubbs brings child-like drawings to life with another friendship tale.
Want more bears? For the sheer “awwwww” factor, try Kadir Nelson’s Baby Bear. Those eyes get the crowd every time. I shared this book with older kids who just gushed over those giant baby bear eyes. Nelson also uses moonlight in the most amazing ways in this book. Because I am fascinated with Medieval manuscripts, I just adore Brother Hugo and the Bear. Try this one with older elementary aged kids who can appreciate a good story. A bear who eats books? Of course they will be intrigued.
If you enjoy literary allusions in your picture books, test out the waters with Three Bears in a Boat, by David Soman. Find hints of Moby Dick, Huck Finn, and Where the Wild Things Are in this tale of three naughty bears who break their mother’s prized shell and adventure out to replace it.
What are your favourite bear books? This year has seen plenty of new bear books, I only named a few. Share your favs in the comments!