“This beautiful story about one stuffed bear’s journey to discover his identity is a triumph of illustration and storytelling”
Bear is on a quest to discover exactly what kind of bear he is. Beginning at the library, a truly excellent place for learning, he sets out on a great adventure to learn about himself, visiting the four corners of the earth (or at least traveling in the four cardinal directions) to meet the bears who live there. In the style of Are You My Mother? books, Bear learns that while he has something in common with each bear respectively, he is also unique in ways that teach him emphatically that he is not a grizzly, polar, spectacled, or sun bear. Returning to the library, Bear finally realizes, with the help of his sweet friend Nelly, exactly who he is: the perfect stuffed bear to be a friend for a little child. The story itself is on the longer side, but other than one unfortunate placement of black text on a too-dark background that hinders legibility, the text placement is perfectly executed such that no single page feels too long. The mixed media illustrations—full of friendly bears, jewel tones, and gorgeous textures and details—bring the delightful storyline to life in a burst of color and personality that seamlessly combines realism and whimsy. While the library itself is not mentioned in the text, it’s clever inclusion adds a level of earnestness to Bear’s quest and hints to children where they can begin their own search for knowledge.
When Nelly asks Bear what kind of bear he is, he isn’t entirely sure how to answer. So off he goes to find out. But none of the different bears he meets on his travels are like him. Grizzly bears don’t have stitching; polar bears don’t have tags attached to their bottoms; spectacled bears are not as soft and bouncy as Bear is; and sun bears never wear bow ties. Disheartened, he returns to Nelly . . . only to discover what kind of bear he is — her own special bear!
Bear doesn’t know what kind of bear he is, so he goes on an adventure and discovers some things about himself. What are some things you have learned about yourself, your likes and your dislikes?
When Bear starts looking for information about himself, he starts at the library. Have you ever tried to learn about something at the library? What is something you’d like to learn more about? Take an adult to the library with you and ask a librarian for help doing some research!
Nelly is a good friend and mentor to bear. She gives him space to learn about himself, but provides love and encouragement when needed. Do you have someone like that in your life? How can you help others around you feel loved and valued?
David Barrow is Children’s Book author and illustrator and a graduate of the Children’s Book Illustration MA at Anglia Ruskin Cambridge School of Art. Whilst on the course, David created his first picture book, Have you seen Elephant? He won the Sebastian Walker award for new talent in Children’s Book illustration at his Masters show and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Since then he has produced several Picture Books for numerous publishers, including the Kate Greenaway nominated Troll Stroll and Fergus Barnaby Goes On Holiday.
Before becoming an author/illustrator David tried a variety of occupations including a brief and largely unsuccessful career as a “Rock Star” (although he still harbours the belief that he will headline Madison Square Garden one day). Also, he was almost in The Fall. Long story…
David now lives in the wilds of Northamptonshire in England with his wife Jo and son Teddy.
For Caleb and Eli
The rough line work and saturated colors of Bear and his new acquaintances create a cozy sense of familiarity, and layered watercolor washes, splashes of dots, and sharp striated strokes build the backdrop to Bear’s investigations, with occasional inked details accenting otherwise organic shapes. The issue of identity is adorably, if abruptly, resolved when our hero accepts Nelly’s offer to become her bear (thus becoming “the best kind of bear”), and little listeners want to snuggle their own stuffed animals after journeying with Bear.
The illustrations use shading, line, and speckles over muted browns, blues, and greens, emphasizing characters and sketching their settings. This heartwarming tale can be enjoyed as a simple story or used to talk about identity, relationships, and belonging. Thoughtfully layered and simply sweet.