A picture-book parable encourages children to ponder the notion of freedom.
In soft line and muted color, a blonde, curly-haired child talks about the bear at the zoo, who tells her about his faraway home, where the breakfasts are sweet and naps last for months. But he is caged at the zoo and cannot go home. The blonde child listens carefully to all the bear’s words, thinks about them, and gets an idea. She releases her pet bird from its cage at home, and the bird joyously flies off to greet the bear before presumably continuing on to its own freedom. The text is so elliptical and understated that one might at first think part of the story is missing—and indeed it is, to be supplied by the readers. The apparent simplicity of the text belies the sophistication its listeners need to bring to it, making it a challenging book to match with readers. Gray, sage green and brown tones are lightened by the palest of rosy shades and the girl’s bright hair, and Ruiz Johnson’s bear is a fuzzy, monumental charmer with sad eyes and a gentle mien.
Ultimately, though, there is too much philosophy here and not near enough story. (Picture book. 4-8)