Two bears vie for the title of Best Bear in the Wood in this picture book.
For three years running, grizzly bear Fred has won the Best Bear in the Wood contest—a contest that involves catching fish, hula-hooping, scaring humans (the humans depicted appear to be white), and, most importantly, emitting the loudest GRRRRR. Fred has set his sights on winning this year too, and he is training hard. Problem is, he has no time for friends with all that training. Then Boris, a new bear with a waxed mustache and a turtleneck, shows up and is seen entering Fred’s cave—and on the morning of the day of the contest, Fred’s GRRRRR is missing from its speech bubble. Coincidence? Perhaps not. Biddulph’s story has no unexpected twists—some are deliberately given away, others are easily foreseen—so yes, the overall storyline is predictable, and the rhyming text strains at times. Still, the illustrations are quirky and humorous, and the book’s design—with its well-thought-out mix of double-page spreads, spot illustrations, and single-page illustrations—brings a great deal of liveliness to the tale. The endpapers cleverly summarize the denouement, and there is an only-in-the-illustrations side story that little ones will enjoy discovering. In fact, it is the clever, small touches rather than the familiar theme (the value of friendship, extending forgiveness) that mark this story a cut above the typical.
This may not be GRRRRReat, but it’s pretty darned good. (Picture book. 2-6)