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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sleep, Big Bear, sleep! Written by Maureen Wright and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Marshall Cavendish, 2009. $21.95 ages 4 and up

"But Big Bear didn't hear very well;
he couldn't sleep in his den in the dell.
He thought he heard as dry leaves fell,
'Sweep, Big Bear, sweep.'"

Old Man Winter wants Big Bear to find shelter and go to sleep...the cold weather is coming. But, Big Bear has a hearing problem and is not too adept at receiving the messages his friend is sending. So, he drives a jeep, sweeps a house, plays leapfrog, dives deep...all the while becoming more weary and irritable. When Old Man Winter loses his temper and uses his loudest voice, Big Bear finally receives the intended message. And, he is very pleased to hunker down, close his eyes and take advantage of the advice...although it seems to be a bit late, if you don't mind his saying so.

I can just hear those little ones joining in to help Old Man Winter get his point across, while Big Bear goes unwittingly on his way, doing what he thinks he is being told. Will Hillenbrand's majestic illustrations give us a sense of the world that big bear is living in, and threatening with his silly behaviors. We are given visual clues to Bear's interpretations, before he follows the instructions that he thinks he is hearing, and we are always ready for the next time. Old Man Winter's incredulous face, the changing perspectives and Rabbit's constant companionship add to the endearing tone of the story. I can't wait to read it in Val's class when the children are back to school in January. Another keeper!

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