Here is today’s review in 3 words: Buy this book!
Why? In 1 word: Joy.
Here’s the review in greater depth: Bonny Becker and illustrator Kady MacDonald Denton have created two of the greatest new characters in children’s literature—the hulking loner known as Bear and the impish sprite of friendship known as Mouse. ReadTheSpirit understands the enormous challenges—and the vital importance—of learning to make good friends. We publish an entire book and ongoing web project called, “Friendship and Faith.”
Mouse may be tiny, but friendship—and connection with the joy of community—is not a small thing at all. It’s a wonderful gift and really the only hope this troubled old world has, if we want to have much of a future on this planet. So, we immediately began celebrating and recommending Bear and Mouse books when the first one debuted in 2008. (We’ll repeat that recommendation in a moment to remind you about the first book in the series.)
What we love about Bear and Mouse books is that they are blissfully simple storytelling. Even the illustrations aren’t over-produced, high-tech digital renderings. They’re loose sketches splashed artfully with watercolor. And to call these stories “minimalist” would be saying to much. These tales are verbal and visual gems that unfold in moments with a child you love. Sneeze—and you’ve missed the story.
The bottom line in all three books is: Boy oh boy do most of us hate change in our lives! But, if a friend joyfully and persistently helps us to adapt—we can move mountains. Or, in the case of “A Sleepover for Bear,” we can finally get a Mountain to sleep!
Beyond family reading, I can think of a host of other great settings for these books. There is nothing specifically religious in these books, but they’re great tales about hospitality, acceptance, compassion, the gifts of community—and overcoming disgruntled stubbornness with pure joy. That’s a pretty good laundry list of values celebrated in Christianity. But these iconic characters ring bells around the world. In India, the elephant god Ganesh often is depicted with a tiny Mouse—and a whole host of stories revolve around the elephant’s relationship with his tiny companion.
But, let’s not overthink such a beautiful thing! You can purchase the new Bonny Becker book, “A Bedtime for Bear” in the Bear and Mouse series from Amazon now.
OR, you can purchase “A Birthday for Bear,” the second volume in this same Bear and Mouse series, from Amazon via this link.
Here’s our Earlier Review of “A Visitor for Bear,” the first Bonny Becker Bear and Mouse book:
In 2008, we wrote:
HERE’S one of our most delightful discoveries in recent weeks: a new book by Bonny Becker, “A Visitor for Bear”—in what we are told will become a Bear and Mouse series for young readers.
On one level, this is truly a light-as-a-feather fantasy about a plucky mouse and an anxious bear colliding over the tiny mouse’s desire to visit the bear’s expansive home. These characters jump to life in Kady MacDonald Denton’s illustrations—so much so, that without ever drawing a conclusion, you’ll enjoy reading the book over and over again with children.
BUT—and here’s why we’re telling you about this book today—in the heart of the story lies one of the clearest expressions of the spiritual gift of hospitality that I’ve seen in weeks of searching for good books on this theme.
In the course of this adventure, Mouse uses every trick he can pull to invade the big old Bear’s sanctuary—to the point that, thrown into a panic, Bear locks his door, boards up his windows, stuffs concrete into his chimney and plugs all the drains in the house! When even these Herculean measures don’t stop Mouse, Bear wearily resigns himself to a visit. He removes all his barriers and finally builds a cozy fire in the fireplace. That’s when Mouse reveals that, really, all he wanted was to sit back with a friend and appreciate Bear and Bear’s world. That’s a jolt to Bear.
The book says:
“The mouse looked most attentive. No one had ever been most attentive to Bear.
“‘The fire is nice,’ Bear announced.
“‘Lovely,’ said the mouse.
“No one had ever said Bear’s fires were lovely.”
Now, I don’t know whether Becker intended her book to hit stores this season with such a timely lesson for the whole family about the true nature of hospitality—but she certainly offers her tale at precisely the right moment. Perhaps we all should learn from Bear and Mouse. Perhaps we shouldn’t panic. Perhaps it’s time brew a pot of tea and invite someone across your threshold who you’d never expect to welcome home.
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Conversation is far better than the dangerous shouting matches we’ve been witnessing in our global culture recently. So, please, email us at [email protected] and tell us what you think of our stories—and, please tell a friend to start reading along with you!
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