A young bear wakes from hibernation with just one thought in mind: honey.
He’s hungry—it’s been months since he’s had any—and his surroundings conspire to remind him of honey: the warm, golden light of the sun; the clear, flowing water of a nearby stream; the delicious scent of a blossoming fruit tree. He’s not yet 2, and with the persistence of a toddler he returns over and over to the hollow tree where a bee colony lives only to find that it’s “too soon for honey.” Framed, energetic watercolors show him making do, finding nourishment in grasses, pine cones, and berries as the spring turns to summer. But he keeps returning to the hive only to find that it’s still “too soon” and even earning himself a sting on the snoot. “ ‘Ouch!’ (Busy bees don’t like to be bothered.)” Stein’s figures are gestural, loose, simple lines delineating his protagonist, whose round head and simplified body will foster an easy relationship with young readers. Eventually the bear loses himself in the delights of summer before a buzz reminds him and he is finally able to enjoy the “warm, golden, sweet, clear, slowly flowing, spicy, aromatic, sparkling with sunlight—‘Honey!’ ” Stein appropriately sidesteps the all-too-frequent mistake of depicting the hive as an external, hanging globe—but he also elides the near-total destruction a real bear would likely wreak upon the tree in pursuit of the honey.
Sweet as, well, honey, if a bit disingenuous. (Picture book. 3-5)