The eternal quandaries of friendships between animals and children are given a new twist in this debut picture book by British artist Henn.
When this polar bear cub is small, living with the boy is no problem. As soon as he starts to grow, his natural bear nature starts to assert itself. He eats all the food, swamps the duck pond and roars in an anti-social manner. The boy realizes his pet is “just too big and bearish to be living in a house.” In an entertainingly repetitive phrase, the titular dilemma—“Then where, bear?”—is repeated on each spread, accompanied by illustrations showing the impossibility of each situation. He is too big to fit in the toyshop, too uncomfortable in the zoo; the circus, the woods, caves and the jungle are too scary for this sweet and fuzzy polar bear. A taste of an ice pop from the fridge gives them an idea. It’s off to the Arctic, where the bear feels quite at home in the snow. Everyone is happy, and the two friends still stay in touch, quaintly “chit-chattering on the phone all the time.” Boy and bear are depicted in comfortable vignettes; bold swashes of crayon overlay plain and textured backgrounds in a palette of red, gray, pink and lime. Thick, fuzzy gray lines describe the bear’s friendly bulk; the boy wears a complementary black-and-white-striped T-shirt.
This gentle tale about friendship and home will give early readers and their grown-ups plenty of food for discussion. (Picture book. 2-5)