Bear Out There, by Jacob Grant, (June 2019, Bloomsbury Children’s Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68119-745-6
Bear and Spider’s newest adventure – the follow-up to 2018’s Bear’s Scare – sends the two friends on an outdoor hunt for Spider’s kite. Bear is just not an outdoorsy bear. Why bother? Everything he needs is inside! But Spider really wants to fly his new kite, so Bear relents and goes out for a little while. Spider’s kite gets pulled away by the wind, and Bear reluctantly offers to help him find the kite, but he complains the whole time, not noticing the nature all around him; focusing only on what he perceives as noise and weeds. When the rain comes, Bear is even more miserable, until he realizes that he hasn’t been a very supportive friend. He offers to help Spider keep looking, and sure enough, the rain stops and they locate Spider’s kite. The two friends end the day with a sweet compromise: they sit outdoors, having tea, and flying kites together.
As in his earlier story, Bear has a bad habit of not seeing what’s in front of him. His perception is skewed; something the art lets us readers in on as an inside joke. What he sees as “filthy ground, itchy plants, and pesky bugs”, we see as a sedate forest spread; what he sees as “yucky weeds”, we see as flowers that a turtle enjoys smelling; what he calls “noisy twitter” is the hooting of baby owls. Spider is there to be our “can you believe this guy?” foil, descending from his thread, wide-eyed and staring off the page, directly at us. At a rushing waterfall amidst gentle, rolling hills and butterflies, Bear’s exclamation of “such an unpleasant forest” is met with Spider, legs thrown up in the air in frustration. When Bear realizes he’s been selfish, letting his pessimism get in the way of helping his friend, things lighten up – literally; the rain stops falling and the kite is located. It’s all about perception, and friendship is all about compromise.
This one is a sweet follow-up, and reminds me of Arnold Lobel’s classic friends, Frog & Toad. Visit Jacob Grant’s website for more of his artwork and information about his books.
Bear’s Scare, by Jacob Grant, (June 2018, Bloomsbury), $16.99, ISBN: 9781681197203
Bear keeps a tidy house for himself and his friend, a stuffed bear named Ursa. He loves to clean the house every day, but one day, he notices something: a cobweb! As he searches his home, he notices another web! And another! Convinced he has a spider problem, Bear works himself into a frenzy – the spider is covering the house with webs! It’s making it sticky mess! – and tears his home apart, searching for the spider. The pictures belie what Bear imagines is happening, as we see the spider very politely knitting, painting, and reading a book as Bear turns his house upside down. In his panic to get the messy spider out of his house, Bear traps Ursa’s arm under a chair and tears it off when he pulls her. Stunned into realization, Bear focuses on getting Ursa some first aid, only to discover that the spider has stitched Ursa’s arm together with its own silk. Bear discovers that getting to know someone is a much better way to determine one’s character, and embraces his new friend – who invites some more new friends to visit.
Bear’s Scare is an adorable story about how our own perceptions can get away from us, and the havoc it wreaks. The charcoal and crayon artwork lends a hand-crafted feel to the story, with digital coloring adding a depth of warm color. Bear is a deep navy blue; he stands out against his earth-toned home yellow spider neighbor. Pages are mostly bright white, with the artwork standing out against the background, with some full bleed spreads, usually for a more dramatic moment. The plain black font lets the artwork tell the full story while the text is there to let the storyteller be as tongue-in-cheek as they want to be.
Bear’s Scare is adorable fun with a smart message about friendship and judging others on appearances. It’s a nice add to picture book collections where kids enjoy a little wink, wink, nudge, nudge humor.
See more of Jacob Grant’s artwork and information about his books at his website.