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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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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 October 7, 2016
Eric Carle books are great. Baby Bear is another nicely done volume. My two year old granddaughter loves it.
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on April 20, 2017
A heritage book that describes- how we feel about love!
A great book to read! I am Math Teacher- Permanent Substitute Teacher from-
Springfield, MA- Wyandanch, NY- Huntington, NY- Queens, NY.
The Children's favorite book from- the School Library!

Cherese Eudlyn Nelson
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Great classic that is holding up to my 1 year old's abuse! The story has great rhythm and rhyme and is easy to follow for my toddler.
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on October 19, 2017
No one can go wrong with this book. It is just the best read for babies and toddlers... I buy it for all baby showers as part of my gift. This one was in great condition. No complaints
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on November 23, 2011
My son read "Brown Bear" at daycare and recites it from memory. I saw this at a low price on Amazon and snagged it for him. What a thrill when he got to open his own mail and find his favorite book!! My favorite part of this book was the end----there are easy activities for the kids that ask them to match colors with the animals, etc. It's a great resource for babysitters or older siblings who are reading with the littles and want to provide a little extra interaction. Don't hesitate to get this book----the best gift you can give your kids is a book!
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on September 3, 2017
Another colorful, cute story from Eric Carle. Board book with thick sturdy pages. Book is small enough to easily fit in a bag.
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on November 8, 2017
Little granddaughter coming to visit from out of state. I know she loves this book, and she loves to play on my tablet, so this electronic version should entertain her and save space.
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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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