From Publishers Weekly
Stein's (Cowboy Ned and Andy
) pen-and-ink illustrations conjure a place readers will wish they could visit, a tiny island that pokes up out of a bay. Drawn in mossy greens and golds, the island is home to a very young bear—so young that when the leaves start falling in the autumn, he's a little shocked: He tried to catch them and put them back on... but it was not the same. The bear doesn't despair; he grows sleepy, goes off to hibernate and wakes in the spring. This set of events is depicted in a series of panels trained on the entrance to the bear's den; the single tree above it loses its leaves, is blanketed by snow, and receives visits first by a rabbit and then by a pair of cardinals.) Eventually the bear sticks his head back out to greet the spring sunshine and spies the tiny buds on the trees. 'Welcome!' he cried. And, he thought, the leaves welcomed him. Many things contribute to the success of Stein's tale: the joyously colored panels that hang on the pages like paintings—more intimate, somehow, than double-page spreads—the island's eight trees and their leaves, which seem lively and animate and entirely worthy of friendship; the innocence of the bear; and Stein's willingness to let the story assume its own haiku-like shape. His autumnal pictures seem to glow, while the bear himself has the irresistible appeal of a well-loved toy. All ages. (Aug.)
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*Starred Review* To Bear, in his first year, everything is new. He lives on a tiny island with a few trees, flowers, berries, and butterflies, and he dances with joy until he sees a leaf fall to the ground. He wonders, "Are you okay?" More leaves fall. "He tried to catch them and put them back on . . . but it was not the same." As he watches the leaves fall and blanket the ground, he grows sleepy, finds a cave-like hole, fills it with leaves, and burrows into it to sleep away the winter. In spring, he joyfully welcomes the tiny leaves unfolding on the trees. The narrative works seamlessly with the freewheeling, expressive artwork. Created with bamboo pen, the energetic, sensitive drawings are tinted with subtle shades of color. Just as Stein uses white space effectively in the art, he uses "white space" well in the spare, precise text, leaving some details for children to notice in the pictures alone, such as how the leaves have been stuck back on the trees by spearing them onto the living twigs. Teachers will find this picture book a natural for curriculum units on leaves or hibernation, and children will enjoy seeing fall anew through the eyes of a big-hearted character more innocent than themselves. Wonderfully simple and simply wonderful for sharing with children. Phelan, Carolyn