Customer Reviews: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
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on September 13, 2005
I am a Kindergarten teacher in Connecticut, and have been using this book for many years. I have the Big Book, a regular-size Paperback version, and four small hardcover ones that I use with an original tape of Bill Martin reading the story. These books are much loved, and I decided to replenish my library with new ones, only to discover that for some reason known only to himself, Bill Martin decided to change the format. In the original version, the pictures helped give clues to the words, which emergent readers need: i.e "Brown bear, brown bear What do you see?" was on the page with the picture of the brown bear. The words "I see a red bird looking at me." and then "Red bird, red bird, what do you see?" were on the page with the picture of the red bird. In this newer, revised version, the page that contains part of the picture of the brown bear has "I see a red bird looking at me." on it. When you turn to the next page, with the picture of the red bird, you see the words, "Red bird, red bird, what do you see?" but then, on the same page you get the words "I see a yellow duck looking at me." No picture clue given. I don't like this version, and it's now impossible for me to obtain a copy of the original version. I think they must be out of print. So I'm holding on to mine for dear life! They're worth their weight in gold!
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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 correct 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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VINE VOICEon September 11, 2000
I've had three children who fell in love with this book around age two. It does a wonderful job of teaching colors, animals and rhyme to toddlers.
Aided by Carle's unique illustrations, this book begs to be chanted by the parent who will be reading it for the umpteenth time. ("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 ....." etc., etc.) The cadence and rhythm of the words have fascinated my youngsters as they learn to identify different colored animals populating the pages of the book. Strictly a teaching tool, the book does not have a story per se, but it seems to be just right for the child who is just beginning to discover the larger world.
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on December 18, 2000
I tried to interest my daughter in books early on (around 5 or 6 months) but she showed very little interest for a long time. She'd bat the book away, look elsewhere, or try to destroy the pages. I read in "The Read Aloud Handbook" that babies like simple pictures, so I picked up "Brown Bear" in the bookstore one day. For the first time, my daughter actually looked at the pages while I read a book. She's now almost 15 months, and she will choose this book over any other--she names the animals for me, and flips the pages back and forth, "reading" the book to herself. It's not the most interesting children's book I've ever read, certainly, but the rhyming and the pictures caught her attention, and got her interested in books. For that, this book is invaluable to me, and I'd recommend it to anyone.
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on January 28, 2000
Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle is a classic book for young readers. The REPETITIVE (not rhyming) text is what makes the book easy for little ones to memorize. The book introduces the very young to animal names and color words. The simple, REPETITIVE text encourages even the youngest of readers to chime in. An excellent choice and a must have in your child's library.
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on June 18, 2001
I remember loving this book as a child, and reading this to my six-month-old son brought back wonderful memories. Yes, there's a simplistic theme running through the pages, but a young child listens for the repetitive phrase and looks for the big, colorful images. My son gets very excited each time I read the book to him, reaching for each of the animals as the page turns; and as he gets older and can comprehend the pictures better, I'm sure he'll appreciate Martin and Carle's work as much as I did.
I highly recommend this delightful book.
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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 July 10, 2000
This was the second book (Tana Hoban's black and white book was the first) that I read to my son when he was a few months old and read it again and again. He was fascinated by the bright pictures in the book and the rhythmic language. Brown Bear brown bear, what do you see? I see a _____ looking at me... As he began to recognize animals and moo like a cow and quack like a duck, the pictures began to take shape for him and he would recognize them for what they were drawn to be. Mr. Carle writes and illustrates wonderful books. My son who is now 3, close to 4, still enjoys the book and he can now easily anticipate which animal is on the next page. I have this book in the board book style and when my son began to "read" for himself, this was one of the books he would frequently reach for. Highly, highly recommended!
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on May 29, 1999
Brown Bear, Brown Bear has provided my child with reading enjoyment since 9 months of age. The colors are outstanding and eye-catching to the little ones. This is most definately her favorite book. (As the book shows). It teaches children of various animals and associates them with colors. At the age of 14 months, my daughter could depict every picture and state it by name and color. True educational book for the young at heart . If your child does not have this book, trust me, buy it - it is well worth it. It's companion book, "Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear." is as phenomem.
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on January 30, 2000
I bought this book for my daughter when she turned one. It's been her favorite book. She knows all the animals, the colors and the sounds each animal makes. If you are looking to buy a perfect baby book, this is it. The pictures are great!
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