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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mother Bruce, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins. Hyperion, Hachette. 2015. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"But the fire in
his stove fizzled.
So he went out to
get more wood.
When Bruce came
back, he was met
with an unwelcome

Hey, Bruce is not likely the bear you want to meet when you are out for a hike in the woods. He is a mite grumpy, and there are a lot of things he doesn't like. He does like to take things that belong to others. He likes eggs best, stealing them to create some new and delicious meal for himself. One of the recipes he wants to try calls for some pretty special ingredients:

"First, he caught a few salmon.
Then he collected
honey from
a local beehive.
He liked to support
local business,
you see.

Last, he went to
Mrs. Goose's nest
to pay her a visit."

Bruce gets more than he bargained for when he chooses the wrong nest to rob. What a surprise when four tiny goslings hatch from the eggs he was hoping to cook! In a classic case of mistaken identity, the goslings attach themselves to Bruce, convinced he is their mother.  Now, he's got parenting troubles. Those hapless babies follow Bruce everywhere he goes. Nothing he does to discourage them works. They don't understand the threats behind his toothy snarls and loud roars!

His patience stretched to the limit, Bruce begins to find joy in their presence. He works to raise them with their future in mind, offering lessons in art, feeding them nutritious food, and assuring they get their rest. The seasons pass, the goslings thrive and grow from annoying baby geese to stubborn teenage geese to boring adult geese.

Fall hopefully brings a reprieve. Bruce explains how they will make their trip south. They are not interested. After many creative attempts to send them on their way, he resigns himself to accompanying them - by bus to Miami!

Not only is the writing wonderfully sharp and full of fun, Ryan Higgins creates endearing images throughout of a grumpier than average bear, four adoring goslings, and adds a boatload of sly humor that will have little (and older) listeners rolling in the aisles. The textures and colors are appealing, the perspectives are ever-changing, and the setting is perfect for presenting this unconventional family that eventually manages a peaceful co-existence.

A surprise ending is sure to ramp up the enjoyment for all. I cannot wait to share it with a classroom full of delighted listeners!

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