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Friday, March 3, 2017

I Promise, written and illustrated by David McPhail. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2017. $20.49 ages 3 and up

"They walked down to the orchard, where the apples were nearly ripe. Mother Bear shook some from the tree. "What else do you promise?" Baby Bear asked her. "I promise to give you good things to eat," said Mother Bear, "so that you will grow up to be big and strong." "Will I be as big as you, Momma?" Baby Bear asked. "Oh, yes, dear," said Mother Bear. "Maybe even bigger!"

What a beautiful little concept book for our youngest readers! Promises are often hard to keep, but they are an important part of learning how to be a friend and a welcome member of any group.

Baby would like his momma to sing to him. She says she will - later. She makes a promise to him which leads to a conversation as they walk together on a warm, sunny day. He is very interested to know what a promise is. Mother uses all her wiles to make it a concept her little one can fully understand. She even helps him see that telling a friend you will play with them tomorrow is a promise made and one that should be kept.

As they wander, Baby's questions are answered to the best of his mother's ability. She continues to make her promise to him as they go:

"Will you sing to me now?" Baby Bear asked.
"Not now, dear," mumbled his mother, her mouth
full of apple. "Later. I promise."

She also explains to him that she cannot promise everything:

"Do you promise that I will always be happy?" Baby Bear asked.
"Oh, I can't promise you that!" said his mother. "Your
happiness will depend mostly on you. But I will do everything
I can to help."

Reassuring, thoughtful, and candid - this is a story that young children will want to hear again and again. Are you wondering if Mother Bear keeps her promise? I can assure you that she does.
I love the watercolor and pen and ink images created by the talented Mr. McPhail. His backgrounds are the perfect forest backdrop for the lovely conversation and learning taking place between mother and child. They are peaceful and natural, as is the tenor of their story.

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