Somewhat longer than most early readers but not quite a chapter book, McPhail’s latest offering is distinguished by an old-fashioned sweetness.
Brief chapters tell four simple stories about things Baby Bear finds while exploring in the woods: a boot, a flower, a baby bird, and a friend. This kind and considerate bear sets out to find the owner of the boot, shares the flower with his mother, rescues the bird, and makes a new friend. Each stand-alone tale is linked by common, anthropomorphized animal characters and stars the winsome bear readers may recognize from I Promise (2017). Watercolor provides soft texture for McPhail’s charming pen-and-ink illustrations. Rather than bleeding to the edges, the pictures occupy the middle of each page, while two to five lines of text per page are set against clean, white backgrounds. Although they are packaged as a reader, the stories seem designed for much younger children. They work well for reading aloud with young children, but McPhail does not employ any of the strategies that help children read independently. By the time children are ready for text this long, they may also want more exciting adventures.The innocence and gentle tone of these “Tiny Tales” pay homage to the original Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik but without the memorable wit of Maurice Sendak’s illustrations. (Early reader. 4-8)