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Old Bear Hardcover – August 19, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. PreSchool-K—Henkes cleverly begins his story on the front jacket. Against a backdrop of red leaves and drifting snowflakes, a large and endearing molasses-colored bear, defined by sturdy dark brown lines, strides across the page. His journey continues through the opening spreads: it is obvious that this creature knows exactly where he is heading. By the time the story actually begins, Old Bear has found his den and lies sound asleep, oblivious to the swirl of winter around him. Dreams comfort him: once more a cub and surrounded by the colors of spring, he naps in a giant pink crocus. His dreams turn to summer where a daisy sun shines in the sky, leaves appear as butterflies, and clouds rain tasty blueberries. Old Bear dreams on through the seasons. Then, one day he awakens, stretches, and heads out into the real world where he is met with flowering trees, butterflies and tulips, and a glistening lake. Now, Old Bear is part of the wonder. As he did in Kitten's First Full Moon, Henkes has created a thoroughly delightful character filled with curiosity and sweetness and placed him in a simple tale that unfolds with a natural, rhythmical pace. And to fill out his cyclical story, the artist provides autumnal front endpapers and contrasting vernal back endpapers. Opportunities to introduce the seasons, colors, and animal hibernation abound. Old Bear will enrapture young listeners for years to come.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
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*Starred Review* Henkes returns to the artistic style of his Caldecott Medal winner, Kitten’s First Full Moon (2004), and A Good Day (2007) in another picture-book celebration of simple, pure joy. All winter long, while snow falls outside his den, Old Bear lies silent and still in a deep sleep. In his dreams, though, he’s an active explorer who roams the woods, savoring each season’s pleasures: spring’s blooms, summer’s berries, fall’s fiery colors, and winter’s blazing stars. When Old Bear finally wakes, he finds a glorious and very real spring world. As in so many of Henkes’ books, nothing is superfluous. Every word, line, color choice, and composition element feels essential and fits beautifully into a common theme. The circle of the seasons, so clearly illustrated in the exuberant images, is echoed throughout the book, even in the text’s cyclical rhythms: “Old Bear slept and dreamed, dreamed and slept.” The elemental words and graceful pacing make this a perfect read-aloud for preschoolers. They’ll want to linger over the scenes of Old Bear’s whimsical dreams, rendered in bold outlines and color washes that move with the seasons from pastel spring through icy-blue winter. Young children already know what Old Bear discovers: the lines between imagined and real worlds are blurry, and each place is filled with wonderment. --Gillian Engberg