________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 12 . . . . February 6, 2009

theverycrankybear cover The Very Cranky Bear.

Nick Bland.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2009.
24 pp., hardcover, $14.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-98616-8.

Subject Headings:
Animals-Juvenile fictions.
Bears-Juvenile fictions.
Juvenile fictions.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 2-6.

Review by Margaret Snow.

***˝ /4

In Australian author/illustrator Nick Bland's fifth book published by Scholastic, he has spun a delightful tale in verse and sprinkled it with alliteration that rolls off one's tongue as a read aloud. This adorable, vocabulary enriched story teaches young children the power of humility and consideration over pride and vanity.

In the Jingle Jangle Jungle on a cold and rainy day, Four little friends found a perfect place to play.

Moose had marvellous antlers and Lion, a golden mane. Zebra had fantastic stripes and Sheep... well, Sheep was plain.

     The story begins as four friends, Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep, search for a shelter to play out of the elements. They happen upon a cave, venture inside, and awaken the inhabitant – hibernating Bear. Bear lets out a series of roars which cause the friends to scurry back into the elements. Three of the friends try to analyze Bear's problem and are certain his temperament would improve IF he had their most treasured features - antlers, a mane and stripes. They decide to "help" Bear by giving him a make-over by using branches, golden grass and mud. As they once again invade Bear's space, Sheep paces, worrying about his friends until they are chased out of the cave, shocked that their plan failed to impress Bear. Plain Sheep then has an idea! He shaves off half of his wool thereby creating a gift of a pillow to sooth and comfort Bear. This works beautifully, and, as a result, Bear slumbers while the four friends relax playing cards in the comfort and refuge of the cave.


     Bland has also illustrated this story masterfully in his typical cartoon style and by using colours to set the mood on each page. The light airy shades that are used for scenes with Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep are in contrast to the predominant shades of dark browns when scenes with Bear are depicted.

     Readers might have one reservation - a moose, zebra, lion, sheep and bear co-existing with consideration to not only prey-predator but also the habitat aspect. To further research this possible response, I "test drove" the story with both my Junior Kindergarten-Grade 1 classes, as well as with my two- and four-year-old grandsons. No one had any problems whatsoever with the “facts” and found the story enriching, and they clearly understood the overall message that being thoughtful is far more important than being beautiful.

Highly Recommended.

Margaret Snow is a teacher-librarian and literacy teacher in a small, rural school in Southwestern Ontario.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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