An Amazon Best Children's Book of the Month, January 2014: Kadir Nelson’s beautiful illustrations take readers to the woods in this sweet story of a little bear trying to find his way home. Though he is lost, Baby Bear is never really alone as he crosses paths with other animals of the forest who offer sage advice and reassurance. There is laughter and tears, but ultimately a return to the lush landscape of home. Baby Bear shines as a calming picture book tale of kindness and learning to trust ourselves. --Seira Wilson
Behind the Scenes of Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson.
Baby Bear was inspired by multiple sources, but there is one in particular that stands out. I remember sitting at the Newberry-Caldecott awards banquet and listening to Laura Amy Schlitz deliver her acceptance speech. She spoke beautifully about an imaginary bear that confronted her in a moonlit clearing in the forest. In addition to her brilliant story, I couldn't get the image out of my head. I thought I'd really love to paint it one day. I knew that when the idea to write and illustrate Baby Bear came about, I would save a special spot for an important meeting by moonlight. And thus, Baby Bear meets dear Owl.
While exploring the scene with dear Owl, I remembered being on the big island in Hawaii and gazing up at the starry heavens. The stars were so bright, the sky a deep indigo blue, and the Milky Way so clear. It didn't seem real. I felt as though each star was so close I could reach out and touch it. I felt so loved by and connected to them. It was this feeling I wanted to capture for Baby Bear as Owl tells him, "You only need look up and keep going. You will find your way home."
I wanted Frog to be kind of a Yogi who was a bit cranky. Baby Bear interrupts his peaceful state and it makes Frog a little crabby. However, Frog still imparts a little wisdom to Baby Bear. "Trust yourself. You will find your way home."
My sketches are generally very loose. Like a stage performer, I like to save a bit for the final performance. Here dear Ram helps light the way for Baby Bear as he stands atop a hill with the full moon framing his stately figure. He tells Baby Bear to "sing a song" to help him get out of his sorrowful mood. It's a great way lift yourself up, to "climb a little higher," as the Ram says.
From School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—A glorious full moon illuminates a blue-black wilderness as a scared and lost Baby Bear seeks his way home. He deferentially asks various animals for help. Each creature offers a different suggestion on how to find his home. Some of the advice is practical as Mountain Lion tells him to "retrace your steps," some of it is silly as the squirrels suggest that he "hug a tree," and some is just clichéd as Moose says, "listen to [your] heart. It speaks as softly and sweetly as a gentle breeze. And it is never wrong." Salmon is the last one to help Baby Bear, swimming with the cub and then instructing him to climb up and see his home at last. Relieved, the little bear beholds a splendid sunrise over the river valley, the same view as depicted in the front endpapers of the book, but now bathed in light. Most young children equate "home" with "family," and the fact that no other bears appear is disconcerting. Nelson's luscious oils on canvas are as breathtaking as ever, and his superb, almost life-sized, depictions of these creatures in their natural environment hold a wonder of their own. Unfortunately, the saccharine narrative and less-than-satisfying resolution make Baby Bear an additional purchase at best.—Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY