Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bear on a Bike

by Stella Blackstone, illustrated by Debbie Harter. Bearfoot Books, 2002. This is one of the first books I bought for Buddy. I love the vibrant colorful paintings and the whimsical busy-ness of the big brown bear. The boy in the story is always chasing after him wanting to be a part of it all. Just like my Buddy! Small children love stories where the the grown-up characters exaggerate the way their parents act and the child characters reflect their own actions and feelings. Blackstone and Harter teamed up on a few other Bear books too, without the boy.
The stanzas are rhythmic, rhyming and repetitive in large bold print, making it a good beginning reader. The bear is traveling on bikes, boats, rafts, wagons, trains, carriages and rockets. He discovers fruits and flowers in the market, fearsome creatures in the forest, wild buffaloes on the prairie, magic star fruits on an island, bright winged parrots on a rainbow, princes and princesses dancing in a castle, and stars and planets soaring through the sky. The boy goes on an exciting romp through all of this, sharing the adventure with his friend and mentor.

I read this book to Buddy last night and I was struck with how much he has learned in the past couple of years. I can remember pointing to the oranges and marigolds in the marketplace illustration, teaching him basic vocabulary. Now he points to the word marigold in the text. He is asking why the boars and foxes in the forest are so scary to the boy and he is counting the vehicle pattern illustrations in the endpapers. He is becoming a scientist and a mathematician as well as a budding reader and literary connoisseur.

One interesting comment Buddy had now that he is four-going-on-five is the question "Why is the boy wearing lipstick? That's for girls!" The boy in the illustrations does have really large, dark lips. His hair is in dreads or twists too. I guess that is part of the "island" flavor, but I could do with a little less accent on the ethnicity factor. He looks almost like Sambo. A couple of the princesses in the story have dark skin too and they have regular line-drawing lips.

In any case we love this book. As you can see there are layers in both the story and the illustrations, keeping interest and interaction going over several years of reading. Do you have another favorite picture book that does that for your young readers?

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