Old Bear

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Old Bear Book Poster Image
Gentle tale of one bear's hopeful, playful dreams.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The bear dreams of all four seaons, attributes of which can be pointed out and discussed with toddlers.

Positive Messages
Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that is a beautiful book about a bear, the seasons, and dreams he has about things he loves.

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What's the story?

As a lumbering, cuddly brown bear hunkers down for his long winter hibernation, he dreams he is a cub again, frolicking through the four seasons and all the pleasures they bring. Finally, he awakes and can hardly believe his eyes when he walks out into a blossoming spring world.

Is it any good?

Any book by Kevin Henkes is worth having, and this one is no exception. With the usual broad outlines and familiar watercolors, Henkes has filled OLD BEAR with striking illustrations that give the simple tale a tone as beautiful and pleasant as the world Old Bear loves. His dream world is filled with giant pink crocuses and butterfly leaves of spring, blueberries that fall from the sky during a summer rain. Splashes of orange, yellow, and red fill the autumn world with salmon, birds, and leaves, and the winter world blazes with icy stars that fill the sky like fireworks.

It's easy to understand why Henkes has been called a genius because of the masterful way he merges simple, poignant stories with expressive, colorful paintings. His books have been awarded the Caldecott medal as well as New York Times Book Review honors. Though Old Bear may not be the best of his best, it's definitely a book worth sharing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the seasons. What does each one look like? Or feel like? What about the bear? What does he do in the fall? The winter? The spring or summer? What does he dream about when he's hibernating? Why? Which season do you like best? Which season do you dream about when you sleep?

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