Recommended for ages 4-8
A bear searches for himself, using clues he’s discovered scrawled on a note in his pocket: 1) I am a very nice bear; 2) I am a happy bear; and 3) Very handsome too. As he searches, he discovers more about the world around him, seeing things with a childlike sense of wonder that all readers will enjoy. Originally published in Germany, The Bear Who Wasn’t There is a debut picture book by composer and playwright Oren Lavie and illustrated by German illustrator Wolf Erlbruch, both renowned for their crafts.
I adore this bear. He’s perpetually upbeat, excited to learn more about himself and ready to explore the world around him. He’s drawn with huge, wide eyes, eager to take in everything he sees, and his mouth is curved into big, happy red smile. He wanders through the Fabulous Forest and meets other creatures who help him on his quest for self-discovery: the Convenience Cow and the Lazy Lizard; the Penultimate Penguin, and the Turtle Taxi, all of whom guide him in some way. Bear is thrilled with everyone he meets; even the snappish Penguin. Lavie’s words are lyrical, beautifully curling themselves around the characters. I love the bantering between Bear and each character; it’s sweet and gentle, and shows kids how to respond to others, as is the case with the standoffish Penguin. Bear never loses his idealism, best seen when he counts flowers, deciding that the number is “beautiful”. When he’s told that “beautiful” isn’t a number, Bear has already moved on, thinking to himself, that it’s better to smell flowers than count them, and that “Flowers are more Beautiful than they are thirty-eight.”
This is such a happy, sweet book to read to younger kids and to older, school-age kids. Kids see things in a different way; a more inspiring, upbeat way. Books like The Bear Who Wasn’t There are a great reminder to kids and adults that sometimes, it really is better to smell flowers than to count them.
Add this one to collections where animal books are popular. The Bear Who Wasn’t There has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.