Review: A Visitor for Bear

A-Visitor-for-Bear-by-Bonny-BeckerEditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Age: 2-5
Author: Bonny Becker
Illustrator: Kady MacDonald Denton
Publisher: Candlewick (August 2012)
Pages: 56
ISBN-10: 0763646113
ISBN-13: 978-0763646110

We’re all about bears over here. Little E (2.5) is forever telling me there’s a scary bear in her room, or a friendly bear sitting at the table, or a friendly scary bear standing in our backyard. We spend a lot of time pretending to hide from scary bears, and friendly bears — I’m not sure Little E is precisely sure about the difference. Fortunately, we live downtown, so she is unlikely to have to judge the intentions of an approaching ursine. This is especially good since I’ve told her that she can get rid of a scary bear by clapping her hands and yelling “Go away, scary bear!”  This is not part of the Ministry of Environment’s recommended Bear Safety Plan.

Anyway, she usually picks out books about bears from the library these days. I’m cool with it; bears are neat. Some of the bear books are better than others. I’ve already told you how much we’ve enjoyed Karma Wilson’s bear series, and now we’ve found a new bear book that turns out to be the first in a series as well. A Visitor for Bear features a misanthropic bear who protects his solitude with a No Visitors Allowed Sign and a plucky mouse, whom I always imagine speaking in a high-pitched upper-crust English accent (my read-alouds of this book are a bit flawed as I don’t do a very good English accent), who is determined to visit for at the very least a cup of tea. The bear only wants to make his breakfast, but when he finds he can’t keep his visitor out — he finds him in the bread drawer, the fridge, and the teakettle — he discovers that perhaps company is not so very bad after all. The combination of Becker’s characters’ personalities and absolutely winning prose with Denton’s spot-on watercolour illustrations works together to bring Bear and Mouse to life believably, humorously, and unforgettably. Little E has been asking for A Visitor for Bear several times a day. We can’t wait to read more in this series.


Review: A Second is a Hiccup

second-is-a-hiccup EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Age: 3-8
Author: Hazel Hutchins
Illustrator: Kady MacDonald Denton
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (March, 2007)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0439831067
ISBN-13: 978-0439831062

I don’t know about you, but I’m forever saying things like “Five minutes to bedtime,” “I’ll be off the phone in thirty seconds; please be patient,” and “Grammie is coming to visit us in two weeks!” But anyone who has tried to get a preschooler out the door in a timely fashion knows that children are not born with an innate sense of time. So how does a child come to learn the difference between a second, a minute, and a week? How do they unravel the mystery of how we track time? If they’re lucky, they’ll learn these secrets, or at least begin to learn them, through Hazel Hutchins’ wonderful book A Second is a Hiccup.

How long is a second? “A second / is a hiccup — / The time it takes / To kiss your mom / Or jump a rope / Or turn around.” With bouncy rhymes and lively watercolour illustrations, the author and illustrator take the reader from seconds to minutes to days to weeks to months to years…and finally to the measure of a childhood: “Changes come and changes go / Round and round the years you’ll grow / Till you’re bigger, till you’re bolder / Till you’re ever so much older / And through all the hours and days / As time unfolds in all its ways / You will be loved — / As surely as / A second /is a hiccup.”

The book introduces the beginnings of some basic math and time concepts for children who are starting school. The explanations in this book are more metaphorical than concrete, however, so children who are actually studying units of time in school may not find that the words match what they are learning. I hope very much that it will give them a different perspective on time and its passage, though, so that perhaps they will learn that a minute is not just sixty seconds but “A happy, hoppy little song / Chorus, verses, not too long / Just enough to fill / A minute.”

Parents will enjoy this book as much as their kids. Every time I read it I am made even more keenly aware of how quickly the seconds and minutes with my young children are slipping by. “Sunshine, snow and rain and squall / Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall / Twigs on trees grow leaves and peaches / See how far a whole year reaches.” And how quickly it zips by.