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on June 1, 2015
This has been the book of choice for my 7mo daughter's bed time. We heard that it's better to read the same book over and over to young kids so that they become familiar with matching up the words and the sounds.

I know it seems like a simple book, but there's a lot more depth to be uncovered on repeated readings, as I've had the luxury of experiencing every night (and sometimes multiple times during the day) for the last three months.

It opens with a simple question: "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?" And if you were to judge this book by its cover, you might assume the bear to be the protagonist of the story. But as it unfolds, we are...

*** SPOILERS BELOW ***

... taken through a tour of the real and familiar (brown bears, red birds) along with the fantastically surreal (blue horses, purple cats). And despite the cartoonish illustrations and unassuming prose, we come to find that this is a world of paranoia and domestic surveillance. A world where neighbor spies upon neighbor.

"Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?"
"I see a red bird looking at me."

"Red bird, red bird, what do you see?"
"I see a yellow duck looking at me."

The book begins with a lie. When the red bird is asked, "What do you see?", the truthful answer is "a brown bear." But she does not admit that she is spying on the brown bear, only complains that the yellow duck is spying on her.

As the pages turn, we learn that all characters are being watched: from the strong (the bear), to the useful (blue horse), to the outcast (black sheep). We learn that all characters know that they are being watched (presumably, this keeps them in line). And we learn that all the characters (except for the bear) are watching one of their peers. (As an aside, it's interesting that this society's only celebrity -- the titular bear -- is the only character to be watched by his peers without the power to watch back. I can only assume that this is Martin's commentary on the impotence of fame.)

As the camera pulls back, we learn that each animal is merely a minor player with myopic vision. In its dramatic, Usual Suspects-esque conclusion, we learn that we are not in a forest or frolicking in the outdoors, but we are in a classroom. An authority figure is introduced:

"Goldfish, goldfish, what do you see?"
"I see a teacher looking at me."

With the introduction of this (white) teacher we realize that these characters who seemed to be free, roaming in their natural habitat, are actually prisoners trapped in the hardbound confines of this book. And yet, even the teacher's vision is limited, for she too is trapped.

"Teacher, teacher, what do you see?"
"I see children looking at me."

The children are vastly more powerful and knowledgeable than any other character. For it is only they -- the readers themselves -- who see all of the characters.

"Children, children, what do you see?"
"We see a brown bear,
a red bird,
a yellow duck,
a blue horse,
a green frog,
a purple cat,
a white dog,
a black sheep,
a goldfish,
and a teacher LOOKING AT US.
That's what we see."

It is those three words -- "looking at us" -- that are most chilling.

If the animals were looking at the children this whole time, why don't they say so? When the bear was asked what he saw, he mentioned only the bird. When the bird was asked what she saw, she mentioned only the duck. Every single character in the book is looking at the children and yet every single one refuses to admit that they see them. It's only the authority figure who has the courage to acknowledge their presence.

How tight must the children's tyrannical grip be to force an entire population into unified submissive silence? The children have complete control, for they not only know everything about the world the characters inhabit, but they also have the power to destroy that world (as many of this book's youngest readers undoubtedly have).

It is the proverbial bear who is not to be poked. But through the bear's opening omission we learn that even he is too scared of the children to publicly acknowledge their existence. The true revelation to this book's opening question is not that the brown bear sees the red bird. It's that he also sees the omniscient, omnipotent children, but is too terrified to say so.

But the children know that he knows.

I don't believe the rumors that this book originated as recruitment propaganda by US intelligence agencies to entice young children to join an elite, "all-seeing" organization that has complete control over the rest of the population, including its powerless authority figures.

Instead, I like to believe that Martin wrote this book (just one year after regular US troops were deployed to Vietnam) as a subversive allegory daring to ask the question "Who watches the watchers?" A question more important today than ever before.

A+++. Would read again.
And again.
And again.
And again.
And oh dear God make it stop.
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on October 26, 2017
Almost every kid that reads this book becomes Obsessed!! Board books are also best version for 1-3 year olds because they rip the pages of the regular version then act sad the pages are mysteriously missing. Buy this for every small child you know. Best gift ever. You need one for your car and one for your house. Lol
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on April 5, 2016
This is one of our favorite books. We have printed out pictures of each of the animals in the book, laminated them, and then hide them in my 3 year old's bedroom with a removable tacky putty. I move them around as she remembers where they are, but as we read the book, I ask her to find the animals. I also made her binoculars by putting colored paper around two toilet paper rolls that I hot glued together and attached a string at one end to go around her neck, when monitored. She loves it and it makes the book and story that much more enjoyable. The hard board book is very durable and great!
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on October 7, 2015
My son's pre-school teacher read this to my son and he couldn't stop repeating the words all the way home.... panda bear, panda what do you see.. I end up buying 2 other Bill Martin/Eric Carle books the same day. The hard cover books are perfect for those little hands, helps with turning pages. This is a must have for little ones, it teaches them about animals and their senses! Now my son reads this book to me!!
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on January 11, 2016
I had an Amazon gc, and thought I'd let my son (3) choose from a selection of books and he chose this one. Although he's not what I consider learning to read-age he memorized the book after I read it twice to him, not to mention that there are some word recognition activities after the story. He's very excited about this book. (Although im a phonetic-lesson-believer, they're teaching recognition here these days...) Also nice to pass something from my childhood days down to his. I didn't know about this particular book growing up but always loved Eric Carle's artwork.
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Positives
Great board book
Introduces animals
Introduces Colors
Very repetitive (which can be positive or negative)
Fun read for 2-4 or maybe 5 years old
Nicely illustrated
Plenty of rhythmic repetition
HIGHLY RECOMMEND
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on June 28, 2017
This is a great children’s fiction picture book written by Bill Martin Jr. with illustrations by Eric Carle. Your students will make you read it to them over and over. It introduces colors and animals in a simple yet imaginative way. The illustrations are great. The story asks certain animals what they see to which they answer what they see looking at them. The book finishes with a summary of all the animals that the children have seen.
This book could be used in the school setting as an interactive read-aloud. The book has simple, repetitive, rhyming text. This style of writing will allow students to interact and join in reading the story as they become more familiar with it. Student can anticipate what is going to appear next in the book. Students can test their memory through recall and can they can sequence the order in which everything appeared. As an extension to the book, students could be asked to come up with their own animal and create a class book following the same structure of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. This is a cute book for all to read and enjoy.
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on February 8, 2017
Purchased full price and this review is unbiased.

A classic story and a complete favorite here. My toddler requests this book before bed almost every night! There are a ton of homeschool lessons that use this book as well, so it is a nice one to keep on hand. This board book is sturdy and will last us forever!
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on December 8, 2013
My daughter has the Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? book and when I saw this one, I had to have it! My daughter will be 2yrs old in December and I thought this would make a nice addition to her Eric Carle book collection.
The book is colorful, easy to hold, and has that unmistakeable charm that all of Eric Carle's books carry. The pictures, as well as the characters, are all far more advanced than in the original Brown Bear book. The book is dedicated to the wild life of North America and has a forward encouraging everyone to do there part in the conservation efforts Eric Carle supports.
Long story short- it's worth it!
I would recommend this to a person with small children and children learning how to read as well as reading at advanced levels.
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on September 21, 2017
Despite this book being a classic, I wasn't sure my toddler would actually like this because of its illustrations. But I was wrong...he loves this book! Great book for teaching basic animals and practicing animal sounds together.
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