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Bear Despair (Stories Without Words) Hardcover – September 4, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

What’s the real lesson here? Don’t ever take a bear’s teddy bear. He is not going to react well. In this wordless picture book, part of the Stories without Words series, a wily fox snatches a sleeping bear’s purple stuffed toy. Fox is oh so cavalier, tossing the teddy in the air—and so Bear eats the fox. Before the bear can grab the woefully discarded plush, a lion comes along and snatches it up, so it’s bye-bye Lion, and he is swallowed whole. And that’s how it goes, as one animal after the next lands inside the bear’s stomach (which kids get to see in humorous cross-sections). Eventually, once a comrade returns the teddy, the bear, who has grown larger and larger with each consumed animal, essentially hacks everyone up from his belly. Dorémus’ crosshatched illustrations express emotion beautifully, and the story is well paced as a series of varyingly sized vignettes on white pages, much like a storyboard. It’s all pretty funny, and kids may relate to Bear’s primal rage. Preschool-Grade 2. --Ann Kelley

Review

"A blue bear lies asleep under a tree, clutching a treasured teddy bear. A long-snouted wolf sneaks up, snatches the teddy bear, and runs off with it... There are no tiresome morals about sharing one's belongings or waiting patiently until they are found; Doremus goes straight to the frustration and rage of childhood, laying them out in 32 pages like a brisk session on an analyst's couch." -- STARRED REVIEW, Publisher's Weekly

"The art is lovely; the crosshatch style and color palette are unique and childlike. Dorémus depicts the animals’ emotions in gorgeous ways, such as the worry in the eyes of Lion when the eggs start hatching or the spread showing Bear under a rain cloud, mourning the loss of his teddy. This charming book is a winner." -- STARRED REVIEW, School Library Journal

"There are no words to describe a great bear's heartbreak when a fox swipes his stuffed teddy in Bear Despair, a captivating pictures-only book for all ages by French illustrator Gaetan Doremus. Wordless illustrated books necessarily exact an extra measure of concentration from whose who "read" them - there are no sentences, after all, to explain the images - and this one repays the effort in surprising and gratifying ways." -- Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal

"In this wordless tale, the French illustrator uses a storyboard format of large and small encircled scenes on a white page to tell an energetic and emotional tale. [...] Colorful drawings with overlays of swirling lines sweep by at a fast pace as the action grows increasingly frantic, mirroring Bear’s growing anxiety. A lesson to be learned: don’t mess with the teddy. An imaginative and well-designed chase." -- Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Series: Stories Without Words
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592701256
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592701254
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 10.2 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

**BEAR DESPAIR... and bear anger. A POSSIBLE SPOILER**

Lets cut to the chase. This is going to be one of those books that is not going to appeal to every mom/dad/teacher. The story is one where a bear is having a nice rest when a fox steals his teddy bear. Bear gives chase and almost gets his lovey back, but fox tosses it away. A lion finds it and Bear again gives chase. This continues until the end when, of course, the reader is satisfied and bear and toy are reunited.

What's controversial about all this is that the angry bear swallows all the naughty animals that don't give him back his bear. He swallows the fox, and then the lion and the eagle. And like Cronus disgorging his children, the satisfied bear (having his teddy back) releases the other animals from his stomach.

Now there are surely multiple ways of looking at this story. One could see the story as a way to use imagination to empower a toddler. And certainly some small fry would like to have the power to correct injustices, and otherwise get their way.

However, there are probably going to be moms like me who are going to wonder if it's a good idea to expose very little children to any sort of violence and uncontrolled rage. That call, of course, should be made based on the children. Some comprehend abstracts better than others at the toddler to kindergarten age.

MY THOUGHTS
I wasn't crazy about Chicken Thief --another book in this series-- so it shouldn't be surprising that I have some hesitations about this one. But in general, I like it better than Béatrice Rodriguez' little book.

The artwork though is not going to work for all children.
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Illustrations in this book are great. I use wordless books in language teaching - the teacher tells the story out loud, while the learner listens and might ask questions. This book has repetition of a particular set of acts - stealing, chasing, swallowing - that allows good repetition of words and sentence forms, easing the understanding and learning of those forms.
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I used this book with a group of 3 and 4 year olds and they absolutely LOVED it. The kids especially enjoyed putting words to the story, and thought the story was quite silly. It serves as a great book for discussing emotions-- we identified the different emotions they thought bear felt during the story, and discussed if we have ever felt a similar way. The sequence of events is predictable, which makes it even more fun for the kids. Since the first reading, they have asked for it over and over. The illustrations are well-done and the colors choices are excellent. There is a perfect amount of pictures in the book, so the reader is able to see the progression of events without being overloaded with pictures like other wordless picture books.
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Bear is peacefully snoozing away with his teddy tucked under his arm, when Wolf happens past. And wouldn't it be a funny joke to pluck out that teddy bear and fling it away as far as he can? Not to Bear. Turns out to be not so funny for Wolf either, after Bear gobbles him up as penance. With a scowl on his face, and Wolf safely tucked away in his belly, Bear starts to hunt for his teddy. He smiles when he sees that Lion has picked up the toy. Apparently Lion shares Wolf's sense of humor, because instead of returning the stuffed animal, he mocks Bear and tosses his toy over a steep cliff. For that, Lion gets gobbled up and finds himself right next to Wolf.

The really brilliant part of this book is that Dorémus allows us to see the goings on inside of Bear's tummy. In no time at all, Wolf and Lion are joined by a pair of eggs (soon to hatch) gulped down as retribution from a teddy snatching bird. By the time an elephant find his way inside, Bear is quite large, his head balancing atop his mammoth body like a tiny pea. Possibly it is his fearsome size that persuades the Octopus to return his teddy. As soon as Bear is pacified, those who were eaten are now released and Bear returns to his nap.

This is indeed clever, and deftly proves you don't always need to have words to understand the story being told. Just how brilliant are these illustrations? Brilliant enough to have won a spot on the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2012.
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