The award-winning Nelson turns from nuanced treatments of historical subjects to this exploration of a classic preschool trope: a lost animal’s search for home.
Baby Bear wanders before a huge, rising full moon, encountering a succession of forest animals. Each—whether a frog caught midmunch or a towering, pensive moose—offers a bit of gentle advice. Strung together, these gems could stand as a guide to life for readers of all ages: Retrace your steps. Trust yourself. Hug a tree. Listen to your heart. Climb a little higher. Sing a song. Look up and keep going. Yet owing to Baby Bear’s childlike vulnerability, all this imparted wisdom can be psychically tough to implement in the moment. There’s poignancy in certain spreads, in which Baby Bear tries enacting just-received advice. When Moose asks “Hello, Baby Bear. / What are you doing?” Baby Bear demurs: “Uh, nothing.” (The cub’s hugging a tree, on counsel of a couple of squirrels.) Nelson’s marvelous oils play with light and alternating perspective. Against the starlit, velvet-blue sky, the luminous moon picks out the whiskers and tawny fur of Mountain Lion. It’s dawn when Salmon leads Baby Bear through the final leg of the journey home. Integral endpapers frame the story: At front, golden moonlight pools in a river bend; at back, the sun’s rays pour over the ridge. Children will enjoy spotting several of the narrative’s animals in miniature.
Resonant. (Picture book. 4-7)