‘If you go down in the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise…’
Bears have taken centre stage in children’s books for a very, very long time, in fact, so long, that some of these ursine heroes are regarded as classic characters. Often depicted as friendly, affectionate, loyal and curious, these positive characteristics have stood to bears as they continue to remain popular today, and have captured the hearts of generations of readers along the way. From Winnie the Pooh to Paddington to Rupert the Bear (as far back as Mostly Mary first published in 1930), bears have starred in a multitude of best-loved tales. And not forgetting Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, which has had such tremendous success for over twenty-five years that it is now being made into an animation! Watch this space.
For some enduring reads, which are far from grizzly tales, on characters full of adventure, mischief and fun, plus exciting titles published from both new and established writers and illustrators, including some enchanting ones from Irish writers and picturebook makers, please read on.
For the 0-4 age group there are some adorable bear tales, in particular award-winning picturebook maker, Emily Gravett’s ‘Bear and Hare’ series will delight very young readers (0-2), as they follow the comic duo on one of their many capers. Bear and Hare: Mine! boardbook highlights the merits of sharing.
A Bed for Bear written and stylishly illustrated with a warm rich palette on a cream background by Clive McFarland. Young readers will delight in this simple quest for the right place to slumber.
In Please Mr Panda, follow a serious roly-poly Panda bear with a box of alluring donuts on an important mission in Steve Anthony’s humorous tale. It’s a wonderful picturebook where a clever and gracious Lemur is rewarded for his perfect manners. Just before you get too comfy and might have been lured into a false sense of security by these furry friends, Jon Klassen’s fantastic hilarious cautionary tale I Want My Hat Back will remind readers NEVER to mess with bears! They might look cute, but can be fierce, wily and revengeful…
For the 5-8 age group, emerging readers will love Gerry Boland’s ‘Marco the Bear’ stories set in Dublin. Described as a ‘Remarkable Grizzly Bear’, these three witty stories about Marco’s escapades will charm and amuse readers of all ages.
A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson and illustrated by David Roberts with interactive, offbeat, subversive humour and quirky illustrations, this guide to bear spotting is sure to please young readers in search of bears and adventure. Finding Winnie: The Story of the Real Bear who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Lindsay Mattick with wonderful watercolour illustrations by Sophie Blackall is the true story of a bear cub rescued during World War One and an extraordinary friendship that followed. Winnie was brought back to London Zoo, where she met a young boy called Christopher Robin and went on to inspire A.A. Milne to write his epic stories about one of our favourite bears!
… ‘It’s lovely down in the woods today but saver to stay at home’ Yes, much saver to stay at home and curl up with your teddy and a good book. But if you must go into the woods – bring a book – it might just be the best way to tame a bear! Happy reading.
Bear and Hare: Mine! by Emily Gravett
Emily Gravett’s latest and fourth book in this popular series about two loveable friends and their many capers (earlier books include fishing trips, playing in snow and finding Bear). Can Bear manage to teach his giddy and greedy friend Hare the merits of sharing or will this comic duo battle it out until the bitter end? Gravett’s distinct style combining entertaining narrative and expressive visuals is storytelling at its finest.
A Bed for Bear by Clive McFarland
Follow Bernard Bear (with his fetching yellow scarf) on his search for just the right place to sleep from a noisy cave to a perfect dry spot. This bright picturebook from Northern Irish writer and illustrator, will invite young readers in, and observant readers will enjoy spotting a little mouse trailing behind Bernard on his quest. McFarland’s use of rich autumnal colours on a pale background create the right atmosphere to complement his charming narrative. This story is a perfect read before bedtime; just as Bernard snuggles down for a long sleep, readers might find this loveable bear’s journey has had a soporific effect on them as well.
‘Marco the Bear’ stories by Gerry Boland
Irish author Gerry Boland has created a brilliant series of madcap adventures about Marco, a grizzly bear escaping from Dublin Zoo and finding a perfect home in Patrick’s shed. Marco loves tea, biscuits, and hiding from the Gardaí and nosy neighbours. Áine McGuinness’s simple yet expressive illustrations add extra charm to these amusing stories about an unlikely but fantastic and enduring friendship. A set of three collectable tales: Marco Moves In, Marco Moonwalker and Marco Master of Disguise.
Written by Síne Quinn, a Children’s Books Ireland Book Doctor with an M.Phil in Children’s Literature. Sine is also an editor and writing coordinator for the Bookmarks Programme at TCD and a campaign coordinator for College Awareness Week.