BIG BROWN BEAR'S UP AND DOWN DAY
David M. McPhail, . . Harcourt, $16 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-15-216407-2
Big Brown Bear thought he could enjoy a quiet morning before his afternoon baseball game. But a rat interrupts his reverie when he attempts to purloin one of the bear's slippers to use for a bed. It's a set-up that seems ripe for a classic battle of wits. Rat tries to trick Big Brown Bear into thinking he has won a free trip, "up to the mountains, or down to the seashore. Up to the North Pole or down to the South Pole"—as long as he leaves his slippers behind ("They're not allowed on this trip. Says so right here in the fine print," fibs the unconvincing Rat). The bear stays put, and McPhail paints a gorgeous spread of the environs, with a nearby baseball diamond, orchard and waterfall. But the anticlimax makes the tale teeter between refreshing and unsatisfying. Declining Rat's ruse, the ursine fellow offers the scraggly rodent a bowl of oatmeal topped with bananas and cream—and eventually finds a way to give Rat what he needs. Some youngsters may be intrigued by the way Bear's modest and genuine acts of kindness send the story in an unexpected and more contemplative direction. Other readers, however, may feel that the plot slowly deflates. Ages 3-7.
Reviewed on: 08/11/2003