Tag Archive | Bears

Beardream, by Will Hobbs

Beardream, by Will Hobbs

As a child growing up in Alaska, the author “came under the spell of mountains, rivers, and bears,” according to the jacket of his seventh book. It also promises a story in which a bear’s great secret will be shared with a young Indian boy. Gorgeous watercolors with soft edges add a dream-like feeling to the illustrations in Beardream. There’s a sunny forest, a bear in a stream, and a steep and mountainous valley, and both the pictures and text seem to celebrate the great outdoors.

“It was springtime in the mountains but the Great Bear was still sleeping,” writes Will Hobbs – even though the picture shows the bear capturing a large fish. “Long after all the other bears had left their dens, he was still dreaming.” There’s a grassy field that’s dotted with wildflowers, and the author seems to be honoring the bear’s point of view. And because this is the bear’s dream, even the rocky face of the mountain looks like the face of a bear!

The story offers a simple description of the adventure of an Indian boy named Short Tail. “Where is old Honey Paws?” he asks his tribe, concerned about the Great Bear and his prolonged hibernation. The book is dedicated to “the Ute children of today and tomorrow.” It’s a great story for children, because the boy strikes out on his own, climbing a steep mountainside in search of the missing bear.

“[S]oon he was climbing the mountain on all fours, like a bear,” Hobbs writes. The boundaries are getting blurry in this story, and they’re about to get blurrier. When the boy rests on the hillside, the giant mountain now becomes the face of a boy. And in the boy’s dream – or is it the bear’s dream? – the boy and the bear will finally meet.

“Wake up, Great” the boy shouts into the dark cave from a colorful hill. The growling bear snarls and knocks the boy down. But in the dream, the boy tells the bear that everyone had been worried about him. “The Great Bear sad down on his haunches and thought about how respectful the boy was.”

It’s a realistic story, which makes its fanciful touches even more special. On a moonlit hillside, the boy travels through silver mists riding on the bear’s back. There’s a wooded clearing where the bears secretly gather to celebrate the end of winter. They dance to the rhythm of thunder, in a brown, fuzzy illustration. The bear dance is a real tradition of the Ute Indian tribe, and the author is re-telling the legend of its creation.

“‘Go back and tell the People,’ the Great bear told Short Tail. ‘Show them how to do the bear’s dance.'”

The Bear Who Wanted to Fly by Carol Shaver

The Bear Who Wanted to Fly by Carol Shaver

There’s something magical about a picture book that’s 14 inches tall. (There’s that friendly bear peeping back at you from the inside front cover.) And there’s also an appropriate quote from Jacqueline Kennedy. “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all…”

And as the magic begins, you can tell that author Carol Shaver spent time telling stories to children. The Bear Who Wanted to Fly is always packed with warm enthusiasm — along with lots of extra adjectives. Right from the first page, I also liked the bright illustrations by Rachel Smith. Their clean, simple style suggests a sunny day with some friendly animals.

“The bear was sitting high up in the pine tree,” the book begins — with a lovely picture of the bear gazing out at a blue mountain sky. He’s perched on branch overlooking a dark blue river, and the simple drawing of his tree even includes a bird’s nest! For weeks, Cubby the bear had watched as the birds “swoop and dive and frolic in the air.” And then suddenly the bear reaches a conclusion. It must be the feathers….

I hoped that kids wouldn’t get the wrong idea, because that’s never going to work. But the book makes that clear, and I really loved all this book’s colorful details, and the way it still found its way to a warm and happy ending. It’s fun that the bear is watched by “the inquisitive squirrel twins,” Chatter and Crunch. They see him scurrying around to collect feathers — beautiful feathers — and storing them in a “saving place” in the forest’s Grand Pine Tree.

And then that bear starts collecting pine cones — sticky pinecones. (The author hints that it’s “nature’s glue”…) Then suddenly the bear disappears. The squirrels and all the animals in the woods start to talk about him, and search, and worry. There’s a wonderful drawing of the bear, covered with colorful feathers, smiling a silly bear smile as he walks toward the end of his branch…

There’s real children’s-story drama — and amazingly, a very happy ending, as all his forest friends rush a pile of autumn leaves under the branch where the bear will inevitably fall. “Friends help friends…” the squirrels say at the end of the book.

And they even arrange a special ride for him on the back of some eagles, so he gets to fly after all.