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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

baby bear counts ONE, written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff. Beach Lane Books, Simon $ Schuster. 2013. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"Down by the pond,
Mama digs for roots.
Whap! Whap! Whap!
"Who is clapping for us,
Mama?" asks Baby Bear.
"Those are the beavers,"
says Mama,
"gathering twigs before
winter comes."

Sweet Baby Bear is back in a book about numbers and the seasons, following up on his discovery of all the colors in his world (Baby Bear Sees Blue, S&S, 2012). This time he and his Mama take stock of the world around them as the animals of the forest make preparations for the coming winter. Baby Bear is learning to count.

In fact, after asking Mama about the clapping, he moves to the edge of the pond to count three very  busy beavers! The onomatopoeic sounds are the only noises the two bears hear as they themselves eat what is available to them. Patient and instructive, Mama answers her baby's many queries with helpful information about the ways of the natural world.

Linoleum blocks are printed in black and colored with rich watercolors. The images are replete with details that are sure to have those who share this book leisurely exploring the bears' world, and enjoying the ever-changing perspectives that allow them to share a bird's eye view, a close-up and even an ant's eye view in the grasses as he happily counts seven bees (including the one on the tip of his nose).

As we move from burning question to quiet answer, we are fully aware of the bears as they explore
their habitat. A turn of the page for the appropriate practice in counting offers another full page spread which affords readers time to practice, too. Their investigation is done all too soon, and winter arrives with the soft delight of snowflakes...uncountable! An apt portrayal of life in Manitoba on this dreary January morning. Ah well, we are on the downhill slide toward spring, or so we hope.


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