Big Bear, after a few false starts, remembers to share the fare.
Hillenbrand’s Big Bear has a burly belly, which surely came from somewhere. As Big Bear is in the process of chowing down a galvanized trash can full of deep indigo berries, readers will quickly figure out that puzzle. It so happens that other creatures of the forest share Big Bear’s interest in food, though he is too oblivious to share his stock, his eyes closed in berry joy. An old oak—drawn by Hillenbrand as an amiably imperial presence with a shock of limbs like Einstein’s hair—feels that Big Bear needs to jump-start his social graces. “Branches shook on the old oak tree. / A deep, low voice said, ‘Listen to me.... / ‘Share, Big Bear, share!’ ” Maybe it is because Tree’s voice is both deep and low, but Big Bear misunderstands repeatedly (as the refrain goes, “He didn’t pay attention like a good bear should”). He thinks Tree said “hair.” So he slicks his fur back and goes on munching. Tree repeats, Big Bear mishears. Lair, chair, scare (“Big Bear knew just what to do. / He jumped in the air and yelled out, ‘BOO!’ ”). Finally, Tree breaks through the earwax. “How could I forget to share? / Come, everyone, / there are berries to spare!” It is refreshing—like those berries on a hot summer day—that Big Bear has just been in a swoon of delight and not a piggy-wiggy who needed a mindful slap on the wrist, though he does blush a little.
“I like to share…. / It makes me happy deep inside.” To amuse and instruct, one could do a lot worse than Wright and Hillenbrand’s bear and old oak. (Picture book. 4-8)