________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 18 . . . .May 13, 2005


Rainy Days With Bear.

Maureen Hull. Illustrated by Leanne Franson.
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $21.95.
ISBN 1-894222-85-7.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.




It has rained every day for weeks and Bear has a bad case of the rainy-day blues combined with cabin fever. He has a suggestion for his friend the writer.

"Let's take a trip," Bear said. "To Trinidad."
"I'm too busy," I said. "I have to finish writing this book."
"I need to go to Trinidad to learn to play the steel drums," said Bear.
"Go in your imagination," I said.

internal srt     And that is just what Bear does with pots and pans and a great deal of noise in the kitchen. With the aid of his imagination, Bear travels to Spain to dance the Flamenco (noisy) to Switzerland to play the alpine horn (noisier still) and to the Arctic to throat-sing (even noisier). Unfortunately, his writer friend is having great difficulty finishing his work with all Bear's travel activity. Although the weather almost gets the best of Bear and he retires to bed for a day, he is soon up and about and off on wings of fancy to Russia, Venice and France. When at last the writer finishes his book and offers to take his little friend on a real trip, the exuberant Bear makes a surprising choice for their destination.

     Author Maureen Hull is an accomplished writer whose fiction and poetry have been published in many magazines and anthologies. Her collection of short stories, Righteous Living, was short-listed in 1999 for the Danuta Gleed Award for short fiction. Her first children's picture book, entitled Wild Cameron Women, was published in 2000. Rainy Days With Bear is a celebration of creative ingenuity (both Bear's and the writer's) as well as an ode to patience which, as most caretakers of the very young acknowledge, usually wins out in the end.

     The exotic settings of Bear's imaginary travels are wonderfully illustrated with soft watercolours by artist Leanne Franson, whose work in L'ouson qui voulait une Juliette was short-listed for the Governor General's Literary Award for illustration. Her depiction of the paunchy, bearded, white-haired writer (in whose voice the story is told) is exceptionally appealing, as is her portrayal of the hyperactive (but huggable) Bear.

     Rainy Days With Bear is a perfect story to share with young listeners on a rainy day. Hull's ability to invent lovable characters combined with the wealth of detail in Franson's paintings should ensure this picture book is a hit with the Kindergarten to Grade 2 crowd.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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