Author Marie-Paule Mahoney and illustrator James Mahoney (Molly and Babou, 2014), along with artist Guiza (Ruff to Riches, 2016), offer an illustrated chapter book about a bear’s continuing adventures.
Black bear Babou discovered a sick, orphaned young cub called Coco and got her help from a veterinarian. Now seven months old and 40 pounds, Coco needs a proper “mama bear” to teach her survival skills before their hibernation instinct kicks in and they need to get away from more settled areas. On a journey north, Babou and Coco get permission from the local “dada bears” to find Coco an adoptive mother. Babou discovers a good candidate, a friendly bear with two cubs of her own, who agrees to foster Coco in exchange for Babou’s finding her a bigger den; Babou dubs her “Good Mama.” Coco learns bear essentials from Good Mama and her cubs before they all hibernate together. Afterward, the bears search for food, meet other animals, and enjoy springtime. Babou and Coco return south for a short visit, just in time to help the veterinarian’s dog, Rags, who has a heart problem. Back up north, Coco becomes friendly with Spiky, a young bear. After hibernating, she gives birth to two cubs of her own, whom she can now teach to live the wild life “that she was born to live.” In this follow-up, the author doesn’t attempt to make bears into human substitutes, as so many children’s books do. Barring a few anthropomorphic moments (such as Coco’s tears), the work is realistic about the sometimes-frightening struggles that bears face in the wild and the dangers they face from people. Unusually, readers get the story from an ursine point of view; for example, Good Mama approves when Coco gets rid of the veterinarian’s radio collar even though it’s meant to help keep her safe. The illustrations mix a realistic cartoon style with photos (and one black-and-white drawing), a decision that portrays Coco’s world well. The plot is episodic and can feel disconnected at times, although the overall life-cycle theme is helpful.
An engaging tale of bears from the animals’ perspective.