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Friday, September 4, 2015

Not This Bear: A First Day of School Story. Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and illustrated by Lorna Hussey. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $19.50 ages 3 and up

"You can hang your jacket in the cubby and put on a smock, just like the other bears," said Mr. Brown. "Not this bear," said Bear. He wanted to hold on to his jacket for a bit longer. So Mr. Brown helped Bear with a smock. And Bear held his jacket under his arm while he painted."

Many young children coming to school for the first time feel exactly as Bear does. They like the status quo. They have no need for things to change. They are apprehensive when it comes to making big changes.

Bear is reluctant to let Mama leave him at school. She reassures him with a hug and an promise that bears like school; we hear for the first time his pat response to such statements:

"Not this bear," said Bear.

There is much to see and experience in his new classroom, with acceptance for his reluctance to be just like 'all bears'. Mr. Brown allows Bear his feelings of anxiety and helps him make the transition from home to school in his own time. Bear keeps his jacket while he paints, But, paint he does. Bear sits with a soft stuffed rabbit on his lap for story time and enjoys the tale. He helps prepare for snack time even when he isn't sure he wants a snack that is not made by Mama.

His teacher is always there with support and praise. Bear is able to put all that he has learned from days at home with Mama to good use when he is taking part in classroom activities. Outside on the playground, he meets a bear who is a soul mate. Neither one loves what 'all bears' love. There are, however, things that they both love and they do them together - making rainbows, blowing bubbles, racing tricycles.

At the end of the day, Bear is not sure he is ready to go home.

Lorna Hussey's warm watercolor images enliven the tale and show exactly how Bear is feeling as he goes about his first day away from his mama. You will love him, and so will little ones experiencing school for the first time.                                                                              

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