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Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Bedtime for Bear, written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. Candlewick, Random House, 2010. $20.00 ages 5 and up

"Everything had to be just so for Bear's bedtime.
His glass of water had to sit on the exact right spot on his bed stand.
His favorite pillow must be nicely fluffed.
His nightcap needed to be snug.
Most of all, it had to be quiet - very, very quiet."

Any experienced reader will know right away that bedtime for Bear is not going to go as planned. Foreshadowing, such as in this excerpt, will have kids giggling in their seats before the story begins. They know....

Bear is his old cantankerous self, and we know it from the first double-page spread. His pince-nez does not hide the fact that he is unimpressed and mightily disturbed by a bothersome tapping at his door. Fans of the two will know that Mouse is about to make an appearance! Tranquility is apparent in his surroundings...the furniture is lined up, the mantel is decorated and dust is absent from every surface. Bear is settled comfortably, cozily covered with his legs up and a book in hand. A disturbance is the least of his desires.

Mouse, on the other hand, is perky and precocious, as we have come to expect. He happily holds his overnight case and, whiskers wiggling, announces that he here for the promised sleepover. Bear towers menacingly over him, but Mouse is oblivious to the consternation he is causing for his set-in-his-ways bear friend. Bear has concerns about his first ever sleepover guest....he has many nighttime rituals and a need for 'absolute quiet'. Mouse is reassuring. Bear prepares for sleep and once settled, he is privy to Mouse's nightly routines. Bear is annoyed, Mouse is apologetic. Finally, both seem settled when Bear makes a big mistake:

""My ears are highly sensitive," cried Bear."

If you know Mouse, you know that is all the provocation he needs for what comes next. No matter how quietly he speaks, Bear can hear what he is saying and becomes more and more agitated. Contrite, Mouse eventually gets back to bed and quietly slumbers. It is too much for Bear...he is sure that he hears something in the house and needs Mouse to help settle his fears. Mouse does some concerted checking, finds nothing and agrees to tell a story to help Bear return to sleep. Perhaps, sharing the bed will not be so bad. Mouse, as is his wont, makes the best of it!  "Shhhhhhhhhhh....."

I am so glad that their continuing story returns to picture book format....full page spreads, bright watercolor artwork, the expressive characters that capture the humor inherent in Bonny Becker's story make it a remarkable read for parents and teachers. Kady's ability to reveal the feelings and give them human expression in these fast friends will have readers poring over the pages with a discriminating eye. It is a such a joy to share this book!

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