People enjoy making connections in life. Such connections can actually create relationships and make stronger memories. This phenomenon happens with books too. Teachers show young readers about connections they might make with text to help them stay focused and to garner interest in the text: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world. Just as meeting someone from our hometown is more likely to result in a friendship (or at least a good remembered story) than meeting ‘just anybody,’ so does relating to a book one discovers often make it a favorite.
So I was delighted to immediately connect with A Brave Bear by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Emily Hughes (Candlewick Press, 2016). It only took three words on the end papers before the story even began: EVERYTHING WAS HOT. Those words summed up my summer, especially August moving into September, when I was expecting some cooler days. I even described the air last week as dead. There was no breeze, no hint of rain, our grass is dead and lots of vegetation is senescing earlier than usual. I completely understood how the two bear characters in this book felt. I had to turn the page.
What follows is a delightful story on many accounts. The dialogue between father bear and his son show a loving relationship. I am often frustrated with the current trend in picture books to show the main character as strong and able to solve their problem on their own. This trend is sometimes referred to as kill the parents. While showing kids they can meet their challenges is important, this concept is in contrast to how we try to teach kids to work in teams and to ask for help and guidance. So I like when a mentor is available to the strong main character and A Brave Bear portrays a beautiful guiding balance between parent and child that is nurturing.
The illustrations capture the mood and pull the reader into the pair’s quest to cool off. I found myself relating at times to the parent and other times to the child, a rare feeling while reading a picture book. Finally, the last line is perfect. It’s a statement of hope, not just about the weather, but also about life’s challenges. I won’t tell the ending. I hope you’ll check out this beautiful book, and share it with your special young reader.