Bear’s wily neighbor Fox produces a gigantic green “donkey egg” and convinces Bear to part with $20 for it.
The Stevens sisters delve into the folk tradition for this tale, variants of which appear in such disparate places as Korea and Algeria, creating full personalities for its protagonists along with a
satisfying conclusion to the central hoax, turning a practical joke into a win for the dupe. Cameo portraits introduce the main characters, starting with Bear, who “worked
hard, but not anymore. Needs motivation.” Bear is large, furry, and sleepy;
Rabbit’s energetic and jumpy; Fox is dapper and sly. Readers will know, as Bear
knows, that the huge watermelon is not a donkey egg. But Fox is so persuasive
that Bear settles in to help the egg hatch. As Bear sits, warming the egg,
rocking it, telling it stories, and playing with it, amusing sidebars calculate
seconds in minutes, hours, and days and offer helpful facts (“It takes a spider
about an hour to spin a fancy web”; “It takes about a week for a snake to sheds
its entire skin”). Bear, who seems to snooze away his days, has a purpose. When
disaster—of a sort—strikes, Bear’s devotion has sparked his energy, and he is
able to act, with his friend Rabbit as cheerleader, turning Fox’s shenanigans
into a fine treasure. Stevens’ nicely detailed illustrations with their
exaggerated, cartoon humor emphasize the delightful silliness. That there is no note indicating the story's folk origins is a serious omission, however.
The deserts take a while to get there, but boy, are they just. (Picture book. 3-7)