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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 September 7, 2017
Zone learned to read this in kindergarten so we were excited to the kindle addition. She likes being able to read a book to her Ducky after I read to her. Bright pictures that caught your attention. Words that are easy to remember yet tea h a young mind to read without being overly hard or tasking.
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on July 19, 2017
This will be part of a bi-lingual library my daughter and son-in-law are building prior to the arrival of their first child. I think the concept is great. Book was perfect in every way and they read it to my daughter's stomach the other night! LOL
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on March 27, 2017
My daughter loves this book!!! It took her a week to finally love it. likes how the book is small and easy to grip. I remember when I read this book, it was larger than what I purchased but she wouldn't able to hold that big book so I am glad there was a smaller version! :)
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on September 12, 2017
This is a household favorite!

Pros
The illustrations
Good length for small child
Good quality board book
Arrived quickly
Story makes sense and has definitive end
Baby learned about new animals!
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on July 16, 2017
This is such a cute book for toddlers. We taught my 4 year old all the words and she's been reading it to my 2 year old. The 2 year old now knows all the words too. My 2 year old's speech therapist had recommended this book. The girls love it!
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on March 23, 2017
Brown Bear, Brown Bear is my 2 year olds very favorite book! His baby sister tore apart his hardback copy so we came to amazon to get the board book version. Love the quality of this book and the size is perfect for little hands. Great book for any age!
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on April 16, 2014
My almost 3 year old son is globally delayed and has a provisional diagnosis of autism. He has just started labeling but other than that doesn't do much talking. When I received this book I printed out the same pictures of the animals in little squares and used Velcro so he could take them on and off the pages. Whatever page we are on he pulls off that animal and says the name of the animal. When we finish reading I ask for a picture, frog for example, he then puts it on the frog page and says bye bye frog. Sometimes I can even get him to tell me what sound the animals make! We love this book! Eric Carle is excellent!
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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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on March 29, 2017
This was the first book my son could read on his own so I had to buy a few of them to give them away to my nephew and friends who recently had kids. Great beginner book that he used to love me reading to him until he started reading it to me. Such a proud dad moment. Thanks Brown Bear!
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