Where, Bear?

Where, Bear? illus. by Sophy Henn. 32p. Philomel. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399171581.
K-Gr 2—A cuddly, white cub lives with a little boy in a home in which retro furniture and telephones with cords suggest the mid-20th-century. When the animal's size quickly outpaces the boy's (and the scale of the house), the child sets out to find a new habitat for his friend. The titular question becomes the narrative engine for a series of spreads taking the duo to places ranging from a toy store and zoo to the circus and jungle. Nothing suits the bear, until they arrive at the Arctic. The controlled palette for each spare composition relates to the changing colors of the (mostly solid) backgrounds. The boy's navy shorts and blue-and-white striped shirt are constants as are the white curves of the animal. Their friendship survives the distance, and the bear proposes a new trip together, setting up the boy to ask the question one last time. This pleasant but not distinguished foray into picture books by a British art director is strong on design but a bit short on sustaining narrative interest. With the exception of the circus scene, the bear is a static figure—either sitting or standing—in each new situation. The narrative wears a little thin, with no dramatic tension, action, or climactic rise in the plot or visuals to enliven the repetitive text.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library
A bear cub outgrows their home, so its little-boy owner searches for an appropriate place "where [it] can be bearish and big." The simple narrative doesn't really go beyond this premise, each refused proposition followed by "Then where, bear?" The refrain is catchy initially but, like Bear, is soon overgrown. Henn's stylish illustrations on matte, subdued-colored pages keep things interesting.

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