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Very Hairy Bear

November 18, 2011

Title: Very Hairy Bear
Author: Alice Schertle
Illustrator: Matt Phelan
Best for Age: 0-4
ISBN: 9780547594071
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2011)
List Price: Board Book, $7.99

I’m not going to lie… I kind of have a thing for bears. I mean, not in real life… I’ve actually never encountered a bear in real life but I hear that it is terrifying. No, I have a thing for picture books about bears. They are always adorable. It is like it is some sort of literary rule. If you want to write a cute book that sells well and melts hearts, just add a bear. Case in point: Winnie-the-Pooh.

And Very Hairy Bear, by Alice Schertle, is no exception. This un-bear-ably (sorry… I had to) cute book was originally published in 2007, but the brilliant people over at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt decided to reprint it as a more baby-friendly board book. Now don’t get me wrong, older readers (ages 4-6) will definitely still enjoy Very Hairy Bear as well, and you can still get the larger hardcover version. But I couldn’t agree more with HMH’s decision to give this tale a new format. Some picture books are just meant to be printed on sturdy cardboard and held by tiny slobbery hands.

Schertle’s story is part tongue twister, part bed-time book, and 100% pure poetry.

“Deep in the green gorgeous wood lives a boulder-big bear with shaggy, raggy, brownbear hair everywhere… except on his no-hair nose.

Each spring, when the silver salmon leap into the air, fisherbear is there to catch them.

He stands in the river with his brown coat dripping. A very hairy bear doesn’t care that he’s wet.

Kerplunk! He’ll even dunk his no-hair nose. In it goes when he smells fish!”

I love Schertle’s descriptive language, as well as her strategic yet playful use of alliteration and rhyme. Many authors can go overboard when it comes to rhyming, the effect of which is oftentimes abrasive to the ear or impossible to get through. Schertle edited herself well, and thus produced a text that is enjoyable and easy to read because it presents a natural rhythm for its reader.

Matt Phelan’s pastel-and-pencil illustrations are beautifully light and airy. Each page is packed with colors, and scenes from nature, that harken to the four seasons that Schertle’s bear explores. Phelan blithely plays with perspective and point of view. For example, during the Fall when the Very Hairy Bear delights in a squirrel’s stash of acorns, Phelan uses gorgeous hues of yellows, reds, and oranges to complete an illustration of squirrels looking down a tree-trunk at the chubby, acorn-eating, bear below.

I believe that Alice Schertle and Matt Phelan’s Very Hairy Bear is a true classic in the making. And it is the perfect board book to give to new parents, or to a little loved one this holiday season!

Other Bear Books I Adore:

 

A Visitor For Bear, by Bonny Becker

The Bear Who Shared, by Catherine Rayner

Bear Wants More, by Karma Wilson (this is a really great series!)

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