Both text and artwork support this book’s title: full of facts, but only those emphasizing endearing bear habits; full of gentle watercolors that show peaceful bear-family scenes.
The book is laid out logically. After an initial double-page spread introduces the fact that our planet hosts eight bear species, subsequent spreads address each of the following: physical traits; general behaviors; each of the eight species; environmental concerns. Children who delight in learning animal facts will revel in such sentences as, “Asiatic black bear nests look a lot like large bird nests and may be found 60 feet up in a tree.” There’s plenty of new, gracefully defined vocabulary too, as in plantigrades and vacuoles. Brett highlights details in physiology and habitats to differentiate the species from one another and gives scientific and common names for each. Despite the scientific, almost dry text, the bears’ faces and body language border on anthropomorphism, with several bears gazing winsomely at readers. This helps to reinforce the author’s assertion that humans need to protect bears and their habitats for everyone’s mutual benefit. However, the older the reader, the less likely their acceptance of perpetually well-behaved bears. There’s not even one fierce, upright grizzly!
With its clear text and illustrations, this introduction is just the ticket for younger elementary readers. (map, glossary, bibliography, websites) (Informational picture book. 4-8)