Bear Came Along

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Bear Came Along Book Poster Image
Bear finds he's not alone in fun, eye-opening adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows different animals that little kids can name, and shows the rushing river -- and waterfall -- they live by.

Positive Messages

Sometimes friends are just around the bend, and you won't be alone anymore. The world is bigger than the part right in front of you. We're all in this together. In author's note at back, Morris writes, "Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to embrace the other, especially when that other is so different. But it is through this connection that we truly discover our best selves -- our strengths, our weaknesses, our fears, our courage. This story says, 'Take a chance!' 'Hop on board!' 'Work together!' 'Trust each other! 'Share the adventure!'" In artist's note, LeUyen Pham writes that "the things that bind us are greater than the things that divide us, and while we are each distinct from one another, with quirks that make us so unique, we're all journeying down the same river together."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The fun-loving animals learn abut teamwork and trusting one another, even though they just met.

Violence & Scariness

Cartoony peril as the animals approach and go over the waterfall, but nobody gets hurt.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Richard T. Morris' Bear Came Along, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, won a 2020 Caledecott Honor. It follows what happens when Bear falls into the river on a log, then other animals he doesn't know jump on, one by one, as they hurtle toward a waterfall. The underlying sweet message is that we all share this earth and "we're all in this together," and that teaming up with those who are different from you can remind you that the things that bind us are greater than the things that divide us. There's peril when they approach and plummet over the waterfall, but it's treated with humor and nobody gets hurt. Instead, they enjoy the wild ride.

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What's the story?

The river at the heart of this story didn't know it was a river until BEAR CAME ALONG. Once Bear falls into the river on a log, he doesn't know he's on an adventure until Froggy jumps on, followed by two Turtles, Beaver, two Raccoons, and Duck. They hurtle toward a waterfall, but the peril turns into a thrilling, fun ride as they rejoice that, sink or swim, they're all "in it together." 

Is it any good?

This rollicking animal adventure shows how much you can learn about your world -- and how much fun you can have -- when you go with the flow and team up with new friends. The repetition of "until" keeps the momentum and suspense going: Bear didn't know he was on an adventure until Froggy jumped on, the Turtles didn't know how to enjoy the ride until Beaver showed up, etc. Duck didn't know there was a world to see until they all plummet over a waterfall to a big, glorious pond below. 

LeUyen Pham's engaging cartoon-like art underscores the personality and strengths of each animal. And the variation in perspectives -- sometimes from above, sometimes close up, sometimes far away, sometimes in strips like a comic -- keeps readers glued to the action. Author Richard T. Morris' concluding lines are: "So many different animals living their separate lives, but they didn't know they were in it together ... until ... the river came along." In an author's note at the back, he writes, "Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to embrace the other, especially when that other is so different. But it is through this connection that we truly discover our best selves -- our strengths, our weaknesses, our fears, our courage. This story says, 'Take a chance!' 'Hop on board!' 'Work together!' 'Trust each other! 'Share the adventure!'"

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about teaming up in a dangerous moment in Bear Came Along. Have you ever faced danger with other kids? How did being together help you get through it? 

  • How do you like the art in Bear Came Along? What's your favorite picture? How does the artist show that the animals are scared? Or happy?

  • Have you ever fallen in a river or floated down one? How did it feel?  

Book details

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