Friday, December 29, 2006
I’m reviewing bear/teddy bear picture books in preparation for our tea party in honor of A.A. Milne’s birthday. Of course, we do have the Winnie the Pooh novels, but I’m looking for stories to read in addition to excerpts from the stories. These are my favorites:
Kathleen Hague's Ten Little Bears: A Counting Rhyme is pretty self-explanatory. We start at 10 and count all the way down to 1 little bear (tired from all the fun/went home to nap/then there were none). The rhymes aren’t forced, and you can turn this into a fingerplay/action rhyme after reading it.
Bruno Hachler’s What Does My Teddy Bear Do All Day? Is the tale of a young girl who wonders what her teddy bear does while she is busy at school. She decides to spy on him and catch him moving, playing, doing anything! The story is in rhyme, but it’s not too sing-songy. If you’re into child/audience participation when you are reading, encouraging your child/children to chime in when the line “You wait! I’m gonna catch you!” would be a good way to create involvement with the story.
I can’t neglect Don Freeman’s classic Corduroy books. The classic stories about this former department store bear and Lisa, the little girl who loves him, are just as attractive and endearing as they were when they were published in the late 60s and 70s.
I haven’t found a Mem Fox book that I didn’t like. For some reason, I had never read her Sleepy Bears until I was searching for books with a bear theme. Mama Bear is trying to get her cubs to sleep. This is no ordinary bedtime, for it is winter, and bears sleep and hibernate in winter. Her babies have tired themselves out with rough and tumble play, and they are yawning some big and sleepy yawns. Before they go to sleep, one by one, Mama lulls them to sleep. These aren’t your typical “Hush Little Baby” rhymes, mind you. Mama has her cubs dreaming of battling pirate ships, flying on circus trapezes, and all sorts of adventures. At the end, all are sleeping in their “soft feather bed.”
Obviously, if you’re looking for realistic books about hibernation, this wouldn’t be your choice. But it’s a great story about a patient and imaginative mom and her cubs. If you’re looking for a bedtime story that has more story to it than Fox’s Time For Bed (if you don’t know this one, check it out-gorgeous illustrations of mama animals and their babies), try this one on for size.
(Also check out Mem Fox's Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever)
If Corduroy or Sleepy Bears are a bit too long for your toddler, consider Piers Anthony’s If You Love a Bear. Many toddlers have a teddy bear to love, but the little boy in this story has a real live bear to love. Clearly, he is an expert at taking care of a bear, and he shows us the proper care and feeding of bears. For one thing, they like to be woken up gently (smart kid). And they “eat a lot more than children do.” Uh-oh…sometimes they get angry, and they stamp and shout. The best thing to do in this situation, apparently, is to provide a snack. And so it goes, at least until bedtime, when bears give you bear hugs. As the book proclaims, “Everyone should have a bear to love.” With this furry, soft looking, and cuddly big bear as the co-star and with a text that begs to be read aloud, you should have no problem falling in love with this book. Unless you’re in demand to read it over and over and over again. If you're looking for a new bedtime story, this book is available at all branches.
Frank Asch’s Bear in Happy Birthday Moon is a kind and considerate bear. He wants to give the moon a gift for his birthday. When he hollers, “Hello!” to the moon, he is surprised that the moon “answers back” (Bear doesn’t know about echoes.). Bear’s quest to celebrate the moon’s birthday is a funny and charming story that is great for preschoolers.
I really dislike “new baby” books that assume that the new big brother or sister is instantly jealous of the new baby, so Martin Waddell’s When the Teddy Bears Came is one of my favorites. “When the new baby came to Tom’s house, the teddy bears started coming.” We see mom and dad arriving with the newborn (in a snowstorm). Dad has the teddy bear in a cradle, while Mom is carrying baby. A toddler (Tom) is gazing out the window, directly at the baby. Mom and Dad are gazing at Tom, while another woman (grandmother? aunt? babysitter?) is watching Tom, probably to gauge his reaction. I love this picture. Not just for the soft pastels and expansive illustration, but I love that the attention and focus is on the toddler, while all his focus is on the baby. It’s a sweet and beautiful illustration, and one of many in the book. Turn the page, and we see baby and mama on the sofa, with a teddy bear nearby. Tom is softly kissing baby on the top of the head. There’s no temper tantrum, no pouting, no screaming. Of course, everyone wants to see the baby, and everyone brings teddy bears. Tom is feeling a little jealous, but it’s because he wants to give the baby a bear. He gives baby his own bear, named Huggy. Soon all the bears are piled on the couch, and there’s no room for Tom. Oh, dear…but he says it matter-of-factly. There really isn’t any room for anybody. Mom has a solution. It’s Daddy’s turn to hold the baby! And it’s Mom’s and Tom’s turn to take care of the bears (with Tom on Mom’s knee). “And that’s what they did. When the new baby came to Tom’s house, they all took turns taking care of the bears…and together they took care of the baby.” This is a gentle and respectful story of a very big change in a family, with lovely illustrations to boot.
(Waddell is the author of a book I always include in my Mother's Day storytime: Owl Babies.)
Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky: A bear appears every autumn and explores the hill behind a farm. This is a realistic and majestic black bear, with bared teeth in one scene. If you're looking for a realistic picture book on bears and/or hibernation, this would be an excellent choice. For toddlers and preschoolers.
Another fantastic book featuring a bear (and many other animals) and hibernation is Denise Fleming's Time to Sleep. For toddlers and preschoolers.
Ditto Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud's How Do You Sleep? for toddlers and preschoolers.
And that's the last post of 2006! The library will be closed Jan 1-2. Happy New Year