A bear of imposing presence provides safety and joy in this visually distinctive debut.
“I love bears,” opens narrator Billy, but there’s really only the one: Griz. Griz is striking, drawn in densely hatched and layered pen lines of browns and blacks, too big to fit on the page yet dominating the space. Griz has a wildness about him, an unrestrained vibe, but he never feels dangerous. Billy trusts Griz implicitly as they explore, share secrets and eat peanut-butter–and-honey sandwiches. Backgrounds are abstract, mellow watercolor, balancing the energetic lines of Griz’s fur. Billy’s enthusiastic, just-learning-to-write printing runs over the pages, crowing “Griz loves honey!” and “Grrr! Roar!” One aspect of Griz isn’t revealed until the final page, though discerning readers may note hints of make-believe in the fancifully colored forest trees (site of hide and seek) and the fluid size ratio of boy to bear. When they nap together, Billy’s curled-up body is smaller than Griz’s muzzle; when they stargaze, Griz is tremendous in the inky night sky, his size protecting Billy—who’s dwarfed by even the width of Griz’s foreleg—from feeling lost in the universe. In contrast, on a yellow spread about joke-telling, Griz rolls over in gales of laughter, fitting completely onto the page, Billy’s height (including whimsical newsprint crown) now comparable to Griz’s head.
A winner for read-alouds, whether in groups or one-on-one. (Picture book. 2-5)