A funny, dramatic, and sweet story that ought to become a classic.

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BEAR OF TREES

In this debut illustrated children’s book, a young black bear makes a dangerous journey to help the brown bear that she loves.

Bear of Trees—called “Betrees” for short—grows up in the Eastern Woods. Most of her fur is dark, like her mother’s, but she also has a white, heart-shaped spot on her forehead because her father was a polar bear. When she turns 2 years old, Betrees finds her own den and settles in for a winter’s sleep, waking up thin, hungry, and in search of food and someone to love. Gojoon, a bossy male bear, tries to make Betrees his bride, but she resists and is defended by Ben, a brave, kind brown bear. For Betrees and Ben, it’s love at first sight, and they agree to meet again in about two months. Ben doesn’t return, though, so Betrees visits the owl oracle, who tells her that her loved one is in trouble and that she must cross the dangerous Metallic River—a road full of cars—to save him. After overcoming many dangers, she and Ben reunite and save two humans whose car crashed. One, a little girl, later tells her story to National Geographic: “Please don’t shoot bears,” she says. “They are not all as dangerous as they seem.” The book ends with Betrees and Ben on their honeymoon. Alexander tells a charming, delightful story. Betrees is both lovable and admirable, helping other animals and exhibiting considerable courage in rescuing Ben, who shares her qualities. They’re each other’s heroes, which greatly bolsters the story’s love-at-first-sight element. The narrative also thoughtfully considers the role of humans: some are dangerous, but others are helpful, as Ben recalls in a childhood memory. High praise goes to the beautiful illustrations by Tsintsadze (Wie bekamen Igel Stacheln, 2015, etc.), rendered in soft, forest-y shades of blue, gray-green, and brown. The pictures of fat bears and other animals are expressive and engaging, featuring wonderful details, such as Betrees’ tail poking out of her polka-dot nightgown, and their lovely Gustav Klimt–like swirls and other textures lend a fanciful air.

A funny, dramatic, and sweet story that ought to become a classic.

Pub Date: March 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5440-0258-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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