Friday, April 10, 2015

Bird and Bear by Ann James

I usually like my picture book art a little stronger and more definite than you get in the lighter colors and lines of watercolor, but when I saw this my first thought was "Ernest and Celestine!" and it does have the feel of that sweet, classic series.

The endpapers echo Bear's striped shirt and give the book a summery, beach feeling before it even begins. The story opens with Bird waking Bear up to celebrate his birthday with a special present. They share breakfast and then decide to go visit Bear's other friend, who looks just like him. They check the weather, pack a picnic, and are on their way. When they arrive at the pier, they are delighted to discover that not only is Bear's friend there, but also a friend for Bird, who looks just like her too! When it turns out that their "friends" aren't exactly what they thought, there is some initial disappointment, but they both recover and eventually make their way home, discussing the nature of friendship and making plans for their next outing.

The art is arranged in small vignettes, a single page or even smaller two, three pictures on a page. Each shows Bear and Bird together with a few simple props or sketches of the surrounding scene. Although we only catch glimpses of the surrounding landscape; a park, the beach, a flight of steps, those few simple lines and washes of color capture the simple joy of a sunny day outdoors with a friend. I especially love the skillful way James' illustrates the water, with multiple colors swirling through its ripples.

Verdict: I wouldn't make this a storytime pick; the illustrations need to be viewed closely to catch all the delicate nuances and it's a slow, sweet story that isn't likely to hold the attention of a big, restless group. However, it would make the perfect, treasured one-on-one reading experience for a family or for a very small storytime with good listeners. It would also be a great way to introduce the concept of reflections for a science program. A lovely story, strongly evocative of the enjoyment of simple things.

ISBN: 9781499800371; Published 2015 by Little Bee Books; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

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