________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 13 . . . . February 26, 1999

cover It's Raining, Yancy & Bear.

Hazel Hutchins. Illustrated by Ruth Ohi.
Willowdale, ON: Annick Press, 1998.
32 pp.,$5.95 (paper), $15.95 (cloth).
ISBN 1-44037-528-8 (paper), ISBN 1-44037-529-6 (cloth).

Preschool - grade 1 / Ages 3 - 6.
Review by Alison Mews.

*** /4


Early one morning, Bear feels a birthday coming on.
     "Are you sure?" asks Yancy. "It's only been a month since your last birthday."
     Bear is sure. Birthdays for Bear work differently than birthdays for Yancy.
     "Hurrah!" shouts Yancy. He presents Bear with a balloon and dresses him in Yancy-overalls. On Bear's birthday Yancy and Bear change places.
     "We'll have extra fun, because today is Grandfather's garden-planting day." Yancy announces, climbing into Bear's sailor suit. Bear adds a final touch and a big thank-you.
     Yancy flies like an airplane as Bear races downstairs. There they both stop. Grandfather is looking out the window. Outside it is raining. Hard. Much too wet to plant a garden.
     It is difficult to tell which of the three is most disappointed.
image What small child hasn't fantasized that a favourite toy could come to life? In this sequel to Yancy and Bear, the warm and comforting relationship between Yancy and his stuffed bear is continued along with the fantasy that, when Bear has a birthday, he becomes real and Yancy becomes Bear's toy for the day. As in any good picture book collaboration, the text only tells half of the story. Ruth Ohi's illustrations play out the charade by showing the visual information that assists children in understanding the transformation of Yancy from boy to toy. Throughout the story, Ohi has Bear assume the postures and expressions of a small boy, while Yancy's lifeless rag-doll body is lovingly carried around by Bear.

      Grandfather plays along, too, recognizing that the day has been designated Bear's birthday and deciding that it needs rescuing from the rain. The trip to the museum is a happy substitute for child and toy, who see the bus as "a great friendly creature pushing through the rain to meet them" where inside it is "warm and bright" and a dry place to watch "the wonderful splashing of the traffic." Meanwhile, Grandfather becomes resigned to the fact that there will be no planting today since the "first happy seeds of spring" are so small they would wash away. He patiently lets Yancy and Bear drag him from the dinosaur exhibit in the basement to the mummies on the top floor, so that when they finally settle in the theatre for a children's play, he nods off from exhaustion. He thus misses Bear's on-stage participation, for which he is given a coupon for the museum's gift shop. There, Yancy, as a non-talking toy, sends special thought waves to Bear to help him chose the perfect thing to cheer up Grandfather - a package of big, flat sunflower seeds that can be planted in the rain. The role reversal is kept up until bedtime when Grandfather is shown tucking in his sleepy grandson who is cuddling his stuffed Bear.

      A major strength of this book is the loving relationship between Yancy and his caregiver Grandfather. Grandfather is supportive of Yancy's flights of fancy and willingly participates in child-pleasing activities, but his own adult personality is revealed with sensitivity. His disappointment at being unable to garden is palatable to the readers and to Yancy, whose gift is thoughtfully chosen to lift his Grandfather's spirits. A perfect story to share on rainy days.


Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Curriculum Materials Centre at the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Nwewfoundland.

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ISSN 1201-9364