cover image Bear Goes to Town

Bear Goes to Town

Anthony Browne. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $10.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-26524-9

Fans may be surprised and disappointed by the route this talented author/illustrator has taken. Featuring the same character as last season's The Little Bear Book , Browne continues the adventures of an unrelievedly perky small white bear who can draw himself into and out of adventures, much like in Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon . This time, Bear goes for a walk through town and meets a friendly cat. When the cat is kidnapped by evil men in black, Bear uses his magic pencil to effect an escape for the cat and a group of other imprisoned farm animals. Finally, Bear draws a pastoral landscape ``in the middle of nowhere'' for them to enjoy. While the story itself is so simplistic as to be almost banal, Browne, a la Tomi Ungerer, has created a sinister and frightening subtext through the highly detailed, full-color art. Unlike his Piggybook , where subtext and story merge, evoking a sense of ironic humor, here bleak images crowd out any sense of fun. These images, combined with other complex illustrative foreshadowing, leave the reader confused. Is this just another saccharin and simple fantasy/adventure--or is it a dark view of a frightening urban landscape? While hinting at both, the book accomplishes neither. One longs for the wry humor of Browne's Willy the Wimp. Ages 3-8. (Sept.)