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Friday, November 1, 2013

Big Bear's Big Boat, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son, 2013. $15.99 ages 3 and up

"Big Bear was ready to slide his big boat into Huckleberry Lake when Beaver came by. "That's a very fine boat," he said. "But a big boat like that needs a mast." "Maybe you're right," Big Bear said."

I am a huge fan of Little Bear's Little Boat (HMH, 2003). It is a perennial title on lists that I use when sharing old favorites. I love the simplicity of the story, the gentle telling, and Eve Bunting's remarkable ability to write universal stories that are so winsome and appealing to all who share them.

Now Little Bear has grown into Big Bear, and his Little Boat is much too small for him. He gifts it to another Little Bear, and makes the decision to build a boat he will love as much as his first must be bigger. Hard and purposeful work gets the job done, and he is very proud of his accomplishment, loving every inch of his new boat.

                 Big Bear Spread               

That is, until his friends start making suggestions for improvement. First, it's a mast, then a top deck. His friends have good reasons for making their points. Each new addition leads to another. When he has finally taken advice from each of them, he stands back and makes a surprising discovery:

"Oh,' he said. "What an ugly boat I've made. The mast leans over, the deck slants and the cabin is higgledy-piggledy."

Poor Big Bear! He allows that his friends have had his best interests in mind; but, he is not content with the new boat and he wants it back the way it was before he started taking their advice. Now, it's the boat of his dreams.

Ms. Bunting's text is perfect for early readers. There is no complicated message here. Nancy Carpenter has created pen and ink and digital media artwork to perfectly accompany the tone and the gentle charm of Big Bear's dedicated labor. It's a lovely lesson in friendship, good manners, being happy and the value of having your own dreams. So worthy of your attention and purchase...



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