Even apex predators need help with their shoes sometimes.
Brannen plays a sly joke with readers’ expectations. Wandering over broad, flat Arctic scenes, a polar bear in four red sneakers, one untied, gingerly approaches in turn a herd of seals, a drove of Arctic hares, and a colony of lemmings. Understandably, all flee in panic before the bear can get out much more than “Excuse me….” On the other hand, the situation is evidently familiar to two ptarmigans who waddle up. “Shoelaces again?” “Yup.” The birds bend down—but rather than retie the loose shoe, they untie the other three. Off gambols the barefoot bear: “Thank you!” “He really needs to learn to do that himself,” remarks one. The author tells the tale in dialogue so spare that several spreads remain wordless, brushing a sometimes-deceptive sense of serenity over events by filling skies, seas, ice fields, and the big, simply drawn animal figures with subtle flushes of transparent color. Expressions are comically anthropomorphic throughout. Leaving audiences the option to read the story as metaphorical or as just a comically surreal episode, she not only makes no effort to explain the shoes, but actually trots in a likewise-shod second bear at the end. (Go figure: Maybe there was a sale.)
Laced with humor and, despite its minimalistic air, decipherable in more ways than one. (Picture book. 5-8)