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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Bear Who Wasn't There, written and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2016. $19.50 ages 3 and up


Excuse me, but have
either of you seen a Bear?

I haven't seen a bear around
here. Are you sure you are in
the right book?
Try the next page."

There is evidence everywhere that a bear is in the vicinity! But, where on earth is it? As the narrator, who is becoming more and more anxious, asks first one animal  and then another about that bear, there are no acceptable answers. Even the tree cannot help!

The duck, the mouse, the turtle and each of the other assorted animals are consumed by their own needs. They have no time for helping to search for a bear that has never made an appearance. Becoming zanier with every turn of the page, the narrator finally asks for an audience with the author. She appears, but seems also to be befuddled by the bear's absence. She obviously thinks that she has drawn the bear being sought, and is very surprised to see all that she has created.

"Did I draw all this?"

Apparently so, her goofy characters fully fill the following pages. Many have something to say about the situation they find themselves in, and are happy to share those observations:

"Why are we all here?"
"We are still looking for the bear."
"Nobody told me I'd be on page 24! What's my line?
Hey buddies, this isn't a birdbath."
"I can't believe I walked all the way from page 20 for this."
"What is going on here?"

Oh, they are so expressive! There is a lot of humor here, some very funny gags, and a lot of enjoyment for those who have a chance to share it. It is a pretty special set-up! I can hear the snickers when the bathroom door is opened on a clearly embarrassed and unsuspecting giraffe. That mouse is a troublemaker, for sure.

Do they ever find said bear? I will let you discover that for yourself.

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