What is it about bears that we love so much? It must be the immediate connection children make with the beloved Teddy Bear. We think, warm, fuzzy, cuddly, funny, safe, and friendly.
Below are ten brilliant bear books we’ve read recently and love.
“Do you dream of seeing some real, live bears?” The young child in A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting, by Michelle Robinson and David Roberts, does and sets off on an adventure into bear country, guided at all times by a narrator. The advice given is accurate and insightful, and sometimes not. The interaction of child and narrator is delightfully funny, especially when two bears come into the picture. The illustrations heighten the humour. At one point, both bear and child fall from a tree—clasping a broken tree branch each, eyes wide and heading head first towards the ground. And then there’s the scene with the bubblegum. And the child frantically emptying his bag to find something to tempt the bears, distract them, so an escape is possible. Oh, and I love the references to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I could go on and on.
A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting, by Michelle Robinson and David Roberts
Pages differ depending on the tone of conversation. When info is given, the background is graph paper. On pages offering lots of dialogue, our child is isolated and makes eye contact with the reader/narrator. When action takes centre stage, the illustrations are more detailed. I enjoyed this consideration taken and believe it suited the style of the story well.
This book is a SPECTACULAR read aloud. “Psst! Don’t forget the golden rule of BEARSPOTTING: Real bears aren’t this friendly, you should only EVER snuggle up to the stuffed kind.”
Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins
You fall in love with the goslings the moment they hatch, and, despite his moods, his antics and his constant attempts to be rid of his ‘babies’, you fall in love with Bruce as well.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall
On his way to war, while at a train station, Harry Colbourne buys a bear from a trapper for $20—as you do. Lol. He names the bear Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg. Harry cares for her, takes her over the sea to England. But Harry has to go to France, and he wants Winnie to be safe. Off to the London Zoo they go. A young boy named Christopher Robin Milne frequently visits this zoo, and becomes Winnie’s friend. Christopher’s father, A. A. Milne … well, you know the rest.
Author, Lindsay Mattick, is the great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colbourne. She tells this story with love, and care for posterity. The book matter is an album of photos, a few journal entries, and a record card. Kids had fun deciphering the code in the flags. Every detail of this book is delightful.
The Bear Who Stared, by Duncan Beedie
Quiet, curious types might want to read The Bear Who Stared, by Duncan Beedie. Gave Haz the Bookface Friday pic, because he’s a bit of a stareoholic. That’s not always a bad thing. Bear doesn’t stare to make the ladybird family uncomfortable, he didn’t mean to bother mumma bird and her chicks, or interrupt badger while he was brushing his teeth. Bear was simply curious yet shy. Quite often these traits are intertwined. Goggly-eyed frog is there to help. He teaches Bear that, “Sometimes a smile is all you need.”
There’s more to manners than pleases and thank yous. No one likes being stared at, so smile and start a conversation. You never know, like Bear, new friendships could be made.
Limited palette. Bold, collage-like illustrations. Those funny disembodied eyebrows. The Bear Who Stared is an endearing story, with cute characters—except for angry Mr Badger. He needs to learn that it’s not nice to bite bears on the nose. Perhaps the tale continues.
A maths wiz, gymnastics pro, science star, “Bear was no ordinary cub.” But he did have a “very hairy problem. He couldn’t ride a bike.” A new park, complete with bike track, just opened in his neighbourhood. To his dismay, the sign read, “No training wheels allowed.” That’s just ridiculous, but we won’t go there.
Bike On Bear, by Cynthea Liu and Kristyna Litten, has a lot to offer. A kid who knows his stuff, is helpful, strong-willed, values learning and friendship. A wise mum with wise words, “Try the library, dear…You can learn anything there.” A fun story with rhythm and spirit. New words to learn—scientific calculations, analysed, somersault—and some fun ones too—WHAP! DING! EUREKA! Colours complement one another. Soft blues and oranges. Pinks, reds, and greens. The illustrations strengthen the text and there’s great variety. Graph paper backgrounds, isolated images within white, full page and double page spreads. Classic humour, a little wordplay, and an ending that will kindle a giggle.
Bike On Bear, by Cynthea Liu and Kristyna Litten
I watched a video on All the Wonders the other day. Steve Light: Creative Spaces, Episode 1. Nice seeing how he works. He said something that stood out to me, “Run your own race.” Bear did that. He stayed focused.
Haz says, “It’s important not to overthink, or worry about stuff too much.” Iz says, “Bear always tried hard and never gave up.” Believe in yourself. Go with the flow. Never give up. This book holds those three wonderful lessons.
Please, Mr Panda, by Steve Antony
Mr. Panda is not the cutest panda we’ve every seen, nor is he that happy—despite having a box of delicious doughnuts in hand. We follow him as he asks other monochromatic animals if they would like a sweet treat. When a “yes” is replied, Mr. Panda turns his back and says, “No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind.” Hmmm, we thought. What’s the deal here? Intrigued, we continued to read. As Mr. Panda rowed away from the greedy whale that wanted every doughnut and more, my Harry had a moment of clarity. “They’re not saying, Please!” I love talking with my kids about a book we’ve read and what we can learn from it, but it’s also spectacular when no discussion is needed. Please, Mr. Panda had worked its magic, and continues to.
Best line in Please, Mr Panda, by Steve Antony… After everything, Mr. Panda says, “I do not like doughnuts.” Classic!!
In Little One, by Jo Weaver, Mother Bear and Baby Bear wake from hibernation and leave their home to explore the world. “There’s so much to discover in your new world, Little One.” They journey through the seasons, all the while, mother bear teaches her little one how to be kind, how to have fun, how to find food, how to be safe, and when it’s time to return home.
Little One, by Jo Weaver
Although it’s a short story, time passes slowly, gently, enkindling emotion. Reading this as a mother myself, I found that each turn of the page warmed my heart. The greyscale charcoal drawings, which are beautiful, evoke memories I’ve treasured over the years. I think it’s important to note that Weaver’s bears haven’t been humanised. This contributes to the tenderness of the story.
Little One is a lovely bedtime story. A lovely mother’s day read, sure to prompt lots of cuddles.
Where Bear? by Sophy Henn, is an adorable story of a boy and a bear. While all is well when they’re younger, as time passes, and as the bear grows—and grows—and grows some more, they realise that the now quite large bear, needs to find a more appropriate home.
Finding our place in the world—I love this theme in children’s books. It’s comforting. The boy in this story cares so much about his friend, that he’s willing to go to the tip of the world for him. What’s more, this story teaches that it’s okay to let go, to say, “Goodbye.” My daughter is incredibly close to her cousins of the same age, one of which, until very recently, she played with six days a week. They have moved to another city and it’s been hard on my girl. After our reading time, we talked together. Having the story to reference helped. “You can still ‘chit-chatter’ on the phone,” I said. Her response, “They [boy and bear] did that.” Love it when we can relate a story to our own everyday.
Where Bear? by Sophy Henn
Sophy Henn’s illustrations are simple and precious. The repetitive nature of the text is great for younger children and also makes reading aloud super fun. Kids were calling out, “NOOO!” and “Where Bear?” So cute.
While reading this book, my thoughts immediately turned to a childhood favourite of mine, A Fish out of Water, by Helen Palmer. Illustrated by P. D. Eastman. Both fun stories, although, I LOVE the ending of Where Bear? so much more.
Albert’s Tree, by Jenni Desmond
In Albert’s Tree, by Jenni Desmond, Albert awakes from hibernation and goes straight to his beloved tree. “…his own special place, quiet and peaceful…But what’s that noise?” His tree is crying. With help from his forest friends, Albert tries to figure out what has made his tree so sad. While investigating, Albert discovers a tiny, new, like-minded friend.
Albert’s Tree is Jenni Desmond’s latest publication. Other works include, Eric The Boy Who Lost His Gravity, The Blue Whale, and coming in October, The Polar Bear. Her illustrations are utterly charming, sprinkled and brushed with texture. The facial expressions of the animals had us giggling, smiling, and awww-ing. Storyline from beginning to end is adorable. The animals are cute, cuddly, and funny. And we love the before and after endpapers.
Sharing makes things twice as good—this is the message we took from our story time with Albert, his tree, and friends.
I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen
Lots of uncontrollable laughter while reading I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen, mostly coming from me.
A bear has lost his hat and wants it back. He goes in search of it, asking many animals if they’ve seen it. Fox hasn’t. Neither has Frog. A rabbit wearing a red, pointy hat, swears that he hasn’t seen it, going quite overboard in his defence. “No. Why are you asking me? I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen any hats anywhere. I would not steal a hat. Don’t ask me any more questions.”
At this point, readers don’t know what Bear’s hat looks like, but are very suspicious of Rabbit, and the giggling start. Outbursts of loud, infectious laughter come when we discover that Bear’s hat is indeed the exact hat Rabbit wears, and when Bear realises that he’s seen it. Bear is very polite throughout the story, so the twisted ending is such a surprise that you’re sure to laugh again, perhaps out of shock.
Klassen’s artwork and text work beautifully together. This is the Best Book EVER!!
There’s so many more wonderful Bear Books out there. No doubt we’ll add to this list soon. If you have a favourite to share, comment below.