Bolger and Hodson explore phonics in cartoon form.
New readers encountering the opening sequence—“Cave Bear / Wave Bear // Lazy Bear / Crazy Bear”—will hardly be aware that they are supposed to be learning basic phonics because they will be giggling over the “wave” bear in surf shorts and the “crazy” bear with scissors cutting down the “lazy” bear’s hammock. On subsequent pages, the “crazy” bear, wearing an easy-to-see red-and-white–striped shirt as well as an offensively vapid smile, wreaks mild havoc. From the opening long A, each vowel is explored in subsequent chapters with occasional glosses from Gran, a bespectacled human grandmother who explains phonics rules in speech bubbles: “Long vowels say their own names.” Some of the vocabulary is quite challenging (“creature,” “relief,” “fuel”), adding an unexpected level of difficulty. Companion title Gran on a Fan uses rhyme to make its point with short vowels, but some of the choices (“bomb,” “mob,” “rob,” “cops”) take this book for emergent readers to some dark places that slapstick visual humor cannot save.
Both this title and its companion are good for reinforcing word families and building reading confidence, but sometimes a phonics book is just a phonics book. (Early reader. 5-8)