Five little words--the three of the title, plus two echoing variants--make for a fresh, funny dramatic playlet, a treat for reading aloud, ready-made for acting out (and, goodness knows, easily readable). Like Nancy Tafuri's little suspenser (below), this one begins at the book's very beginning--where, on the title page, a timeless-and-placeless, almost-wooden-toy lady is picking berries in the woods. Barton's broad areas of bright, flat color serve as the ideal humble, universal vehicle. And, when the action erupts--the lady dashes wordlessly out of the woods toward a snug town and neat fields--his intent, excitable figures broadcast every message. Actually, one message--""Where's the bear? ""--differently delivered: this, and the counterpoint, is the small genius of the book. When the fleeing lady first hails the townsfolk, their ""Where's the bear?"" is startled; following her back into the woods, their ""Where's the bear?"" becomes urgent, anxious. The critter is spotted (not by us), to a chorus of ""There's the bear. There's the bear. There's the bear,"" and lost-sight-of: ""Where's the bear? There's the bear! Where's the bear?"" Finally--""There!""--we see a bear, almost filling the double-page spread with his sedate presence. The townsfolk flee (""There's the bear. . . There's the bear""); the bear follows to the edge of the wood. Then, to a single say-it-how-you-will word--""Yeah""--he turns around and disappears among the trees. Together, text and illustrations spoof human behavior, scare-stories, and picture-making--on an honest-to-goodness three-year-old level.