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.