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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...


... 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 January 3, 2012
I almost always read reviews before buying, but Santa forgot to get this for my daughter who is almost 3. She has speech delay, and while she can't read yet, I agree that the words should appear with the correct animal (ie. I see a red bird looking at me should appear on the page with the red bird). But I also miss that is does not say "Mother, Mother...." it instead says, "Teacher, Teacher...." Okay, so a dad could be reading it, and I know some kids don't have a Mother, but, if we are talking about keeping it a classic, then it should stay a classic in that respect too. There are lots of books that are about a father and if I were reading to my child (I am a mother) I'd still read it as father. I think I will write in it to fix it. I have done that with many, many books.
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on January 27, 2009
This is one classic I just don't get.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is often hailed as perfect book for the 2 and unders. It is praised for its simple illustrations, repetitive phrasing, and color education. It's a very simple, rhythmic book.

In fact, it's so simple it begs the question: Who couldn't have written this book? It's very stereotypical for the age group. Throw in some animals, some colors, some repetitive phrasing, and voila! Instant children's book.

Which, by itself, is fine - there's a reason for the formula. But if you're trying to find the very best books out there I just don't think this it. Let me explain why:

First, the biggest obstacle to getting a parent to read to the child is in getting the parent motivated to make the time to read together. A dedicated parent may be willing to read through this book dozens of times, but I think unless the parent has fond memories of the book from his or her own childhood, the average adult is probably going to get mind-blowingly tired of this book after about the fifth time. It just does not have enough substance for the parent to enjoy reading it over and over again. Plus, frankly, the teacher at the end is a bit of a turn-off in a one-on-one parent/child setting.

Also, I feel that the biggest goal of a parent is to foster a love for stories, and this book just doesn't seem to pull that off. A love of stories comes from fostering the imagination, exploring roles, and learning about the world around us. It most certainly doesn't come from memorizing colors, or the names of animals. A love of books will serve your child far, far more in the long run than a little bit of memorization.

So, maybe everybody else sees something I don't see. Or, maybe parents are scared to criticize this book because it's a classic. If you ask me, though, you'd be much better off purchasing something that is fun to read (like anything by Sandra Boynton) or something that has a little bit of a plot and a little bit of imagination (like Eric Carle's other book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and leave the brown bear on the shelf.
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on November 15, 2011
Just as I was about to buy the regular board book version of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? for my daughter, we saw this one and gave it a shot. I'd never seen a slide and find book before, but when I saw how it worked on the first page, I knew that the format was perfect for this story. Other versions of this book have the animal saying they see x animal looking at them on the same page as them, or on the next page with the animal that's looking at them. It's kind of weird for it to go like that, and I know a few people have expressed how they feel about that, but with this variation, there's nothing to complain about...until the end.

When you open the book and the first pages read 'Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?' at the top, the sliding panel says 'I see a red bird looking at me'. Slide it and you'll reveal a small picture of the red bird. The next page has the regular sized picture of the red bird, and the book continues in this way. It's really cool and my daughter couldn't wait to slide the panel on every page. It makes me wonder why the bigger versions of this book didn't have this feature, like how a lot of Eric Carle's other books have something unique like the scaling pages of The Grouchy Lady Bug, or the bumpy web in The Very Busy Spider. As for the book itself, the artwork is fantastic as usual, and the bright colors will appeal to kids of all ages. This also makes for a great book for children to learn how to read once they've gotten a lot of basic words down, since it follows a pattern with the text.

It pains me to give the book less than 5 stars, but for some odd reason, the final pages are missing where the kids in the classroom go over everything they saw in the book. It...doesn't make any sense! It's not enough to knock the rating down to one or two stars, but it certainly was disappointing to see that it wasn't included.

Even with that problem, I highly recommend buying this Slide and Find take on Brown Bear. It could've been a 'definitive edition', but man, that last page missing is really lame. Don't let that keep you or your children from enjoying it though. This and the other 'What Do You See?' books are all fun to read at bedtime, or any time for that matter.
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on December 15, 2016
Book spine is already coming apart from book. 😕
review imagereview image
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on June 4, 2006
I don't understand this book at all. Nothing is ever accomplished. There's just this bear and he sees some stuff. Not too good. Not good at all. This is almost as bad as the book "goodnight moon." And by the way Ms. Brown (author of Goodnight Moon) what the hell is mush? Can you tell me that? Or aru too busy studyin at the University of North Dakota? Huh? TELL ME! What is mush?
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on March 28, 2009
Somehow my childhood years were completely void of any Eric Carle books - only within the past 3 years have I even learned of him.

My son is now 10 months old and we are attending reading circle at the library - and one day I happened to stumble upon this book at the end of the class when the librarian dumped a pile of books on the floor for children to browse through.

I immediately liked it. The story line is simplistic - a single animal with a certain color is named, and then asked what they see. Their answer becomes the next animal in line to be asked that question - "Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking back at me. Red bird, Red bird what do you see? I see a yellow duck, looking back at me!".

The rhythm and rhyme that I associate with good children's books is enchanting. The rest of the book progresses with a blue horse, a green frog, a purple cat, a white dog, a black sheep, a goldfish, and then a teacher. At the end of the book, you find a classroom of "children" looking back at the teacher. When they are asked what do they see, they respond by naming all of the animals in order again "looking back at us". Very few children's authors are capable of teaching sequencing, colors, nature, rhythm, repetition, and rhyme in one short story. This book handles it beautifully.

We've currently had the book out on loan for about 7 weeks now and my son absolutely loves it - he squeals and bounces up and down with the rhythm of the story. I've read it so many times that I know have it memorized. My dad and husband even have it memorized. (haha)

As much as I love the book, though, I can only give it 4 stars because 2 things stick out to me.

1. In this board book edition, I find it odd that there are no foreshadowing clues to indicate WHAT the animal "sees". It would seem logical that the words "I see a red bird looking back at me" should appear either on the same page as the full red bird, or either a clue (a red tale, a beak, etc) would appear beside the words to foreshadow what comes next. But it doesn't. Each stanza appears on one page, with one animal - for instance, on the page with the bear, the text reads "Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me". Then you flip the page to go on to the next character. There is no way for the baby / toddler to associate what the animal "sees" when the actual statement is made.

2. The teacher & the classroom turned me off a little. I would much prefer a different ending (such as with a family member appearing), especially in a board book edition. But that's just my personal preference. :)
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on December 4, 2011
I'm awarding one star ONLY because of the Kindle price. Is that a misprint? We love the book and wanted to add it to our Kindle collection. However we will NOT pay this price - or even close to it.
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on June 30, 2017
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is an excellent children’s book. Creators Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle have done a fantastic job, incorporating the use of bold colors to create vibrant collages of animals and people. Also, because of its rhyming and sing-song pattern, the text is memorable--both for the children being read to and the parents who, ultimately, memorize the book after a few readings.

According to its Amazon Product Details, the book’s age range is 2-5 years of age, but I disagree. I have been reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? to my son since he was less than a week old, and now, 5 months later, it is still his favorite book. I read to him multiple times each day, and of all his books, he prefers Brown Bear over the rest. He enjoys Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Corduroy, but Brown Bear is his all time favorite.

Early on, I think his favorite pages of Brown Bear were the predominantly black and white pages (the white dog and black sheep pages); I think this is because at that time, he was only able to really see those colors. Gradually, he became interested in and excited about the other pages as well. Right now, I think his favorite pages are the goldfish’s page and the children’s page.

My son loves this book so much that we have two copies--one kept in our home and the other travelling with us in his diaper bag. If he gets cranky while we are out and about, a reading or two of Brown Bear usually cheers him up. We give this book 5 stars!
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on February 2, 2014
When my 18-month old brings me this book to read to her, I die a little inside. Seriously, could it be any more boring and repetitive? Maybe she likes it because it's simple, but my God, I can't take it anymore. Give me the bingeing caterpillar book ANY DAY over this one. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. Parenting a toddler is boring enough, can't we have interesting books to read them? Or at least creative ones? I can teach my daughter animals and colors in many more fun ways than this awful book.
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