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First Sentence: In a cave in the woods,
in his deep, dark lair,
through the long, cold winter
sleeps a great brown bear.
Said bear sleeps (and snores) through the day and night, through storm and a host of uninvited guests. A tiny mouse stumbles in and builds a fire and is quickly joined by a hare, a badger, a gopher, a mole, a raven and a wren. They share food with each other, pop popcorn, laugh and visit while bear snores on unaware until a rogue pepper flake makes its way to his nose and he sneezes himself awake. I’ll let you read this yourself to find the ending but it’s got a fun little twist, just perfect for preschoolers.
There are a lot of rhyming picture books out there and a lot of them are just mediocre. They look great on the page and even sound good in your head, but when you try to read them aloud the words and rhythms just fail to flow smoothly. Not so with our Ms. Wilson. She has a veritable gift for verse. And she uses some lovely words to do it. Nothing about her vocabulary is trite or tired, another reason why I love her so much. At an age when children are gaining words in their own vocabulary at the rate of +/- 5 or so words a day, the more rich language they are exposed to the better. So the bear’s cave is also referred to as a lair and a den. The animals ‘pitter-pat,’ ‘creep-crawl,’ ‘sneak-peek,’ and ‘scuttle;’ and they ‘divvy’ up their snacks, in the ‘damp’ ‘dank’ cave. There are also lots of fun action sequences for varying voice volume and pitch. And a host of sequels!
Wilson has a bunch of other titles that are all quite good as well but the bear books are my favorites. There are currently 10 (if I counted right!) with several board book variations and sets available.
Chapman’s illustrations are friendly, the animals at once recognizable for what they are but with a definite cartoonish quality in their faces and posturing—I think little mole is my favorite–(and ability to be friends without eating each other!) Highly, highly recommended!!
Written by: Karma Wilson
Illustrated by: Jane Chapman
Number of Pages: 32
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002
Age Range: 2-5