cover image The Bear Who Wasn’t There and the Fabulous Forest

The Bear Who Wasn’t There and the Fabulous Forest

Oren Lavie, illus. by Wolf Erlbruch. Black Sheep, $17.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-61775-490-6

In songwriter Lavie’s debut, originally published in Germany, Bear’s search for himself doesn’t matter so much as the charm of Lavie’s storytelling voice as he narrates it. Bear materializes, improbably, from an itch that grows as it scratches itself. In his fur he discovers a pocket with a note inside. “Are you me?” it reads. “Helpful clues to look for: 1. I am a very nice bear. 2. I am a happy bear. 3. Very handsome too.” Erlbruch (The King and the Sea) gives the bear big, puzzled-looking eyes and a lovable grin. He lives in a forest made of ornate trees seemingly lifted from vintage engravings, whose delicate lines play off Bear’s dumpy figure. Bear’s encounters with various characters—the Turtle Taxi, the Penultimate Penguin—feature gentle wordplay and Lewis Carroll–like paradoxes. “There are exactly Beautiful flowers around the tree,” Bear concludes after counting flowers with the penguin. “Beautiful is not a number,” the penguin retorts. “Oh, but I just counted,” Bear says. Everything is new to Bear, and his discoveries will delight readers. Ages 3–7. Agent: Katelyn Detweiler, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Oct.)