cover image Baby Bear

Baby Bear

Kadir Nelson. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-224172-6

Nelson (Nelson Mandela) builds his tale on the simplest bedtime-story scaffolding: a bear cub loses its way home and asks other forest animals for help. What distinguishes Nelson’s creation is an atmosphere of loving-kindness and the affirmation of Baby Bear’s ability to make the journey alone. Even animals that appear intimidating (a mountain lion, a moose) offer reassurance. These nighttime encounters unfold against a background of rich cobalt blue, bathed in the orange light of the full moon. “You are not alone, Baby Bear,” says an owl in a tree. “I am here with you. You only need look up and keep going.” Softly brushed oil paintings convey intimacy by getting right up close. One spread zeroes in on Baby Bear’s moist black nose, the moon reflected in its shining eyes. In another sweet-tempered scene, a salmon leads Baby Bear home (“If you promise not to eat me, I will show you the way”), the fish swishing through the water while Baby Bear paddles behind. It’s easy to imagine the tension leaving anxious bed-goers as they realize that Baby Bear is always safe. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Jan.)