Author/Illustrator: Katharine McEwen
Age Group: 2-8
Synopsis: A little bear grows up, prepares for hibernation, and soon has a family of his own.
The Low Down:
I’ve always liked autumn. But since moving to England it’s changed. Everything is a bit different. The leaves, the crispness in the air, the feeling that you need to enjoy every last minute of sunshine before the cold of winter sets in. The aspen leaves always changed back in the mountains but most of the other trees were coniferous and so I never really understood the beauty of changing leaves before last year. I was walking down the road with Bug one day and I stopped and stared at the trees and thought, “This is it. This is what everyone’s always speaking about when they talk about how beautiful fall is.” I find myself almost giddy with anticipation this year, peeking out the window in hopes I won’t miss the change. I think that’s what drew me to Bear Hug. The autumn scene on the cover that is almost dipping into winter, it just seemed to sing to me.The story follows a young bear who is getting ready for his winter hibernation. He’s making a bed of leaves, fishing for salmon, and eating berries. During his preparations, he meets another bear and they get ready for the coming winter together. As the falling snow thickens, they curl up in a bear hug together and waken in the spring. Soon they have their own bear cub and then the whole preparation begins again. In the end, the bear family curls up together to hibernate. It’s sweet and thoughtful. The strong imagery McEwen creates with her comparisons is moving, as is the way she ties in what the bears learn from their parents to what they teach their own cub is a subtle reminder of the skills and gifts we pass on to our own children. I found that I enjoyed this much more than Bug. I think he’s still too young to understand the change of seasons and the changes of life. This will have to be one we revisit as he gets older. For now we enjoy flipping the pages and enjoying the beautifully crafted illustrations that McEwen has compiled.While each pages is it’s own work of art it is the first page of spring that made my eyes widen. McEwen gives vision to the songs of spring that each bird is singing. With bright reds fading into yellows and blues melding with purples and back again, it truly is a visual expression that is wonderfully shocking with its simplicity and strength. The pages of fall are sprinkled with circles of snowflakes gently reminding the reader of the season and the delicate lines of each flake are cleverly disguised in their overall presentation. They are each obviously snowflakes but they are done in such a unique way that I found myself wondering if I could replicate them in order to decorate our own house closer to winter. The color schemes she uses never leave you wondering what time of the year it is. Each is carefully chosen to enhance the story and overall visual impression. Bear Hug left me feeling as though I need a nice bowl of popcorn, a warm cup of apple cider, and a woolly blanket to snuggle with Bug as we welcomed the coming changes.
- If your little one is too young for the actual story, a story walk is a great way to experience older books. Just talking about what we see on a page and what might happen next encourages young ones to develop literary foresight and visual scanning skills that we sometimes skip over when we are just reading through.
I need more!
Katharine McEwen has worked with a number of authors, illustrating their books. Having illustrated over 40 books, Bear Hug is her first illustrator/author book. Here’s a list of the publications that she has available: http://www.katharinemcewen.co.uk/publications/
Add to my library:
UK Amazon:Bear Hug
US Amazon:Bear Hug