Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bear Hug by Katharine McEwen

A young bear remembers the lessons of his parents as he prepares for the winter, meets another young bear, and begins to teach his own cub about survival.

I'm really torn about this book. On the one hand, I like the text. It's sweet without being sentimental, flows nicely off  the tongue, and it isn't too text-heavy. I've been reading a lot of picture books for Cybils 2014 picture books and the most common reason I put something in the "do not purchase for the library" pile is that there's too much text.

Also, I absolutely love, love, love the illustrations. Simply stunning collages with color and enticing shapes to capture the eye. There's life and warmth in the pictures and I just want to pore over them, catching each small detail and spot of color and the wonderful shapes of the bears and the details on the trees. Yes, I really like these illustrations.

But...it's really difficult for me to overlook the weird clash of natural history and anthropomorphism. I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure adult male bears do not teach their cubs anything or stay with the family. In fact, bears being omnivores, they are quite happy to add "my offspring" to the dinner menu. This seems to be an attempt to portray an idealized, traditional family but I don't understand why that was necessary - why not stick to the facts, make it a female bear, have her think about how her mother taught her to survive, and then have her own bear cub?

Verdict: I really, really love the illustrations and seasonal books are always popular so I might go ahead and purchase it, but I doubt I'd use it in storytime and if I did it would be accompanied by an educational discussion of What Bears Are Really Like and how Single Families Are Ok Too. Apparently she's quite a prolific author/illustrator in the UK so I will wait hopefully for new releases from her here in the states.

ISBN: 9780763666309; Published 2014 by Templar/Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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