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Friday, March 14, 2014

Baby Bear, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2014. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"Excuse me, dear Frog.
I am lost.
Can you help me find
my way home?
Do you mind? I am busy.
But I'm lost and afraid.
Do not be afraid, Baby Bear.
Trust yourself.
You will find your way home.
Now please, if you don't mind..."

Baby Bear's story is familiar to little ones. He is lost and looking for help to find his way home. As he wanders, he seeks sage advice from the animals that he encounters in his forest home. Each offers a suggestion. None are especially helpful on its own, but all encourage him to look inward for the strength and knowledge that will help him find his way. When he finds Salmon, we know that he is nearing exactly where he wants to be!

Using dialogue between the little bear and the other animal characters provides a strong structure for early readers, and some repetitive text will help them with understanding the course of the search. While we don't ever meet Baby Bear's family, we end the story knowing that he has found his way 'home' is a splendid ending after all his encounters.

If you know Kadir Nelson's work, it will come as no surprise to you that each page is a treat for your eyes! I love the silhouettes of the dusk and dawn endpapers, allowing readers to accompany this tiny cub through uneasy darkness to growing light. His use of light and changing perspectives beg the reader to stop and wonder at the details, the luminescence, the growing sense that Baby Bear is indeed on his way to exactly the right place...home!

He is safe at all times, getting gentle advice from every animal he meets to help with his continuing  journey. Their bits of advice will hold each of us in good stead, and bear repeating: go your way, trust yourself, hug a tree, choose wisely, listen to your heart, climb higher and keep walking, sing a song. Once you have completed this comforting book, I am sure you will be asked for a repeat performance.

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