Not only is Baby Bear’s loss of fear too sudden to be believable, the art pays no mind to his inner emotional landscape and...


Mixed messages and a main character who comes off as less a frightened youngster than a self-absorbed twit spoil Pearson’s debut.

The fault lies chiefly (but not wholly) with the illustrations. Scared by noises in the nighttime woods, Baby Bear slips out of his den. He climbs a tall tree, rips down the starry sky like a curtain and proceeds to eat it. He callously brushes off the protests of a field mouse, a firefly and a bat in his determination to eradicate the night. He loses his fear of the dark when his mother appeals to self-interest by explaining that the dark helps bears survive, too. Despite being capable of pulling down the sky, he is portrayed by Leick not as a powerful figure or, considering his motives, even an anxious one, but as a chubby-cheeked teddy bear who exudes smug self-satisfaction as he continues to chew away despite the pleas of other creatures. Ultimately Baby Bear belches out the sky in what would be a comical climax were it not depicted as a few almost unnoticeable gassy wisps issuing from his mouth and disappearing into the page’s gutter.

Not only is Baby Bear’s loss of fear too sudden to be believable, the art pays no mind to his inner emotional landscape and turns what is essentially a tale of mythic proportions into a cozy bit of feel-good ephemera. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7614-6103-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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