________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 9. . . .November 4, 2016


Bearís Winter Party.

Deborah Hodge. Illustrated by Lisa Cinar.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2016.
32 pp., hardcover & pdf, $18.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55498-853-2 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-854-9 (pdf).

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Jane Whittingham.

*** /4



Bear lived in a forest on the side of a mountain. He felt at home among the trees. He nibbled on sweet berries. He sipped cool water from the stream. He breathed in the fresh mountain air.


Itís not easy being Bear. As Bear is the biggest animal in the forest, all the other forest residents run and hide whenever he appears, and no one dares to go near him. The other animals talk about him behind his back, but all Bear wants is a friend. Before settling in for the winter, Bear decides to throw a big party in his cozy den, and he invites all his forest neighbours to celebrate with him Ė but who among them will be brave enough to befriend a giant bear?

     Bearís Winter Party is a lovely, optimistic little story about looking beyond appearances and being open to making friends with those who might look, sound or act differently. It reminds young readers not to jump to conclusions or form opinions of others without taking the time to really get to know them. This important message is delivered with a gentle hand, and the story never comes across as preachy or moralistic. This is certainly a longer picture book, and some younger readers might find it a bit text-heavy, but I think it would work particularly well as a soothing bedtime story.

internal art

      The illustrations in Bear's Winter Party are certainly eye-catching, and while they will likely not be to everyoneís taste, I personally found them stunning. Thereís an element of dreamy surrealism to Lisa Cinarís imagining of Bear and his forest friends, with strange colours and unusual shapes and proportions coming into play. In a sea of highly commercialized picture books with generic illustrations, itís actually quite refreshing to come across a picture book that is willing to take a bit of a stylistic chance with its pictures and create an expressive work of art that breaks out of the conventional box.

      My one complaint with Bearís Winter Party is a design one Ė the typeface is a bit smaller than I would prefer, and at times it blends into the illustrations and can be a bit difficult to read clearly. When sharing books with young readers, I prefer a bolder typeface thatís easier for emerging readers to focus on. Still, this is a minor inconvenience, and it would not deter me from recommending this picture book.


Jane Whittingham is a children's librarian in Vancouver, British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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