Themes of inclusivity and individuality will strike chords with readers in McGowan’s debut picture book.
The story opens with the titular Bear, who is described as “a rambling musician. An entertainer. A legend.” When he comes up with a new song, however, he feels that “something is missing.” He sets out to discover what this “something” is, and in spread after double-page spread, he encounters various instrument-playing creatures who join with him to form a band. A twist comes when they encounter Wolf Pup, who doesn’t have an instrument. Good intentions come up short as Bear empties out his backpack to try to find something that will do: “Anyone can play it,” Bear says of a kazoo, and a forlorn little Wolf Pup sits with it dangling from his mouth by the group’s campsite. In a happy turn of events that lends agency to the group’s littlest member, that night, Wolf Pup howls while they play their music, adding just the right “something” to the song. “We’ve got ourselves a singer!” Bear exclaims. McGowan’s art, three-dimensional illustrations of painted, cut, assembled, and photographed scenes, is a wonder to behold in its ingenuity and animation.
Now all this story needs is an audience, and it’s sure to drum one up. (Picture book. 3-7)