Featured Series: The Bear Books by Karma Wilson


Children’s book series can be tricky things. An author who has captured her audience with a loveable character(s) will, naturally, be inclined to write more adventures for said loveable character(s). These can be hit or miss, and before long the loveable, and beloved, character(s) might be lost in a land of listless prose, uninspired illustrations, and — worst of all — merchandising and/or heavy-handed preachiness, with CuteBunny™ being licensed as a board game, a dress-up doll, and the star of a book about hand-washing.

So far, though, Karma Wilson‘s sweet Bear books have avoided the children’s book equivalent of jumping the shark.

In the series’ first book, Bear Snores On, a hibernating bear snoozing through the winter is oblivious to the varied crew of smaller animals who take refuge in his cave, and, having found themselves all together, take the opportunity to throw a midwinter party. Bear wakes up with a snarl and a roar and the cast of forest critters trembles — before realizing that bear is just disappointed to have slept through the fun. The party resumes with bear at its epicentre and the new friends enjoy the shelter of the warm, cozy cave together.

The rhymes are not always spot on (Dear Ms. Wilson, should you be reading, the following word pairs do not, in fact, rhyme: “den” and “thin” or “grin” and “friends,” but I know I’m nitpicking here). Overall the metre is very good, the characters appealing, and the storylines well paced. Jane Chapman’s illustrations are wonderful: each woodland creature is just anthropomorphized enough to possess a distinct personality, but is still utterly realistic and recognizable. Too often animals lose all of their “animal-ness” in children’s books, but Chapman’s pictures, Badger is recognizably a badger, Mole a mole, and Bear a sweetly guileless, lumbering bruin. Preschoolers will find the situations in which Bear finds himself familiar: afraid while lost (Bear Feels Scared), losing a tooth (Bear’s Loose Tooth), feeling uncertain at a party (Bear Says Thanks), suffering from the flu (Bear Feels Sick), and will enjoy the small surprises and happy resolution contained within the covers of each story. The characters are wholesome, modelling positive behaviour such as caring for a friend, without being saccharine. Reading these stories aloud is great fun, since each creature seems to cry out for its own voice, and the words are simple enough that a beginning reader will be able to sound them out on her own. There is a sameness to the stories that means that grownups might find them fairly predictable, but older toddlers and preschoolers are likely to love having an idea of what happens next in a new story.

All in all, a highly recommended series. I suggest starting with the “prequel,” Bear Snores On, but soon you’ll find you’re reading the whole set.

Books in this series include:

  • Bear Snores On
  • Bear Wants More
  • Bear Stays Up for Christmas
  • Bear Feels Sick
  • Bear Feels Scared
  • Bear’s New Friend
  • Bear’s Loose Tooth
  • Bear Says Thanks

One thought on “Featured Series: The Bear Books by Karma Wilson

  1. Pingback: Review: A Visitor for Bear | The Aardvark's Apprentice

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