One cold, wintry night, as bear hibernates, a mouse creeps into the cave to escape the storm. He is soon followed by a host of other forest animals bringing food to share. They soon have a blazing fire and hot meal going. The party goes on, despite the sleeping bear, until a small “pepper fleck” makes the bear sneeze, and the animals freeze.
Karma Wilson writes an endearing tale of friendship and the value of including everyone. She uses rhyme and repetition to make the story work. The rhyming makes the story move at a nice clip and the repetitive phrase “But the bear snores on” encourages young children to participate. Books with rhyming and repetition are excellent choices for encouraging early literacy skills and Wilson is adept at blending the two.
Jane Chapman’s illustrations add another layer of humor and warmth to this story. Bear is a cute, soft likeable character despite his “bearness.” Bear is illustrated with soft features and soft brown fur with a gentle face — no snarling appearance here. Likewise, the seven small friends are also depicted as loveable creatures. Each animal has small, round black eyes yet because of their facial expressions their eyes appear bright and alert. When Bear sneezes, rabbits' ears trail behind in the wind and you can almost see the animals leaning backward in the force of the sneeze. The small friends are reminiscent of the inhabitants of the 100 Acre Wood, from A.A. Milne’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh.
Chapman gives the setting its own warmth and coziness through color and shapes. Each illustration is presented with round edges to offset the harsh winter weather. She uses reds, oranges and browns to the give the cave a warm, fire-lit glow.
In this engaging tale of friendship, seven small friends are faced with a large, angry adversary. But underneath that fat and fur is the heart of a softie. Join seven small friends and one large one as they shelter in a cave. Will Bear wake up? Read and find out.