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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Three Bears in a Boat, written and illustrated by David Soman. Dial, Penguin. 2014. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"One day, when their mother was out, the three bears did something they really shouldn't have, and with a crash, their mother's beautiful blue seashell lay scattered in pieces across the floor. Afraid of their mama, who, after all, was a bear, the three fled from their house..."

Have you met the three bears? Not these bears I would guess, unless you have already seen this wonderful new book from David Soman. These three bears still live at home by the sea with their mother. Their names are Dash, Charlie and Theo. Like all young ones, they sometimes get themselves in trouble. In this adventure a mishap leaves them nervous and afraid; they flee to the sea.

While hiding behind their boat, they devise a plan to get back their mother's good books. Off they go to find a replacement for the broken shell...exactly the same so that Mama will never know what happened. You just know that things will not go as easily as their plan assumes. As they set out to sea they meet other bears who have no solution for their dilemma. Finally, they are offered the best advice an old sea captain can give:

""A ways over yonder," he told them, "is an island shaped like a lumpy hat. On that island, there may be a seashell, a beautiful blue one. It could be underwater, or in the tallest tree, or on the very top of the mountain. It might even be hidden in a cave. I'm not dead certain, but if you look in the right place, I reckon you'll find it.""

A bit vague, you say. I would agree. The journey is long, a trifle scary even. Upon arrival at the island they follow the old salt's instructions to the letter, without any luck. Sad, mad and argumentative, they set sail for home. The trip home is not easy; its many hazards has a profound effect on the brothers. Their return is welcome but has its consequences.

This is a terrific picture book, and is sure to become a favorite to be read again and again. The art is stunning, the design is an invitation to linger long before you turn any page, allowing the reader and listener to savor the setting, the expressive and determined bear cubs, and all of the action on land and sea. It is warm and spirited, and will definitely leave you longing for your own epic sea adventure, so long as you find the 'right place' in the end.


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