In this character debut from U.K. rapper Doc Brown (writing as Smith), readers meet the scrappy, edgy Bear, who moves about the day with slick rhymes and even slicker pranks.
The book could be described as a meeting between the venerable goofiness of Yogi Bear and the encircling kitsch of the early 2000s Hip Hop Harry. Readers first see a bare, pink-skinned Bear who dons a purple suit and assumes a B-Boy stance. The narration reads like an early, toddler-friendly, playful version of hip-hop: “In my tummy? / Mostly honey. // Here’s a thingy / I find funny….” In the accompanying illustrations, Bear is pictured eating honeycomb in a beekeeper’s veil, muzzle and paws a sticky mess, then pointing up at leafy branches before playing a knock-knock joke on a red squirrel. (Well, Bear finds it funny, anyway.) Later on, Bear uses a wand to catch salmon and does a disappearing act, boasting, “I do magic. / Most bears won’t. // Now you see me… // Now you don’t!” A later prank finds Bear stealing doughnuts from a police officer (an ode to Yogi, maybe), mischievously setting up the red squirrel for the fall. All the while, graffiti artist Akyüz depicts the squirrel and an oft-ducking-from-trouble hare as sidekicks, friendly, thick outlines and saturated colors keeping time with the beat.
Mixing the melodies of hip-hop with the antics of preadolescence makes this colorful picture book a charming read for young rap fans and beginning readers. (Picture book. 4-7)