________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 15 . . . .April 1, 2005


Wherever Bears Be: A Story for Two Voices.

Sue Ann Alderson. Illustrated by Arden Johnson.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 1999.
32 pp., cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 1-896580-18-1.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Rosemary Hollett.

** /4



"These trees are thick with the thought of bears."
"bears hungry for berries."
"Hi, bears, wherever
bears be."
"I'll make up a song to hold the bears back:


Two little girls go berry picking in the mountains, mindful that there are bears lurking about. Every sound and movement suggests a bear hiding, waiting to pounce. After all, bears love berries too!

     Sue Ann Alderson has written a book with great potential. All the elements for a fabulous tale are there—a bright summer day filled with a blue sky, warm breezes that gently sway the shadowy trees, two boisterous, spirited sisters and bears, bears everywhere. Alderson adeptly portrays the joy and abandon a child feels frolicking in the woods on such a summer day. The smell of green grass and blueberries warmed by the sun are a refreshing contrast to the tension the girls evoke with their exclamations of bear sightings.

"Should we go further? Do we dare?
We're all alone. Just us and maybe a bear?
What's that shadow? See it rear?"
"Yes, yes!"

     The tension created as we wait for the bears to pounce is encountered from page to page. Who hasn't experienced a walk in the forest where critters seem to be hiding behind every bush? Children and adults alike can identify with the creepy feeling of unseen eyes watching and waiting.

internal art     Illustrator Arden Johnson has captured the essence of the story perfectly. Her use of soft pastel colours captures the dreamy feel of a summer afternoon, and the clever and subtle suggestions of bears as part of the background marry perfectly with the text of the story. The final leaf of the book is a delightful surprise as the most discerning eye will eventually spot a huge bear face suggested in the green of the forest.

     In summary, however, this book is disappointing. The promise shown in its premise is damaged by a distracting style of writing. The text is awkward and lacks the rhythm necessary for silent reading as well as a "read-aloud." It seems the author cannot decide if the text is a flowing rhyme, free verse or real conversation.

     For a beginning reader, the use of different fonts to indicate the two voices of the girls may also be a challenge. The dialogue is stilted and artificial sounding.

Recommended with reservations.

Rosemary Hollett is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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