cover image Urso Brunov and the White Emperor

Urso Brunov and the White Emperor

Brian Jacques, , illus. by Alexi Natchev. . Philomel, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23792-8

Mini superhero Urso Brunov, the brave bear “no taller than your very own thumb,” is back on duty (following The Tale of Urso Brunov ). His mission: to rescue two lost polar bear cubs and return them to their home in the Land of Rainbow Lights. Natchev's soft, detailed watercolors complement Jacques's formal tones; together they create a traditional storybook universe in which the hero overcomes obstacles to complete his assignment. In the less than gripping tale, however, the obstacles pose no real dangers for masterful, fearless Urso Brunov. He solves almost every crisis by reminding the cubs of his reputation, blowing his bugle and summoning aid from another creature. Natchev garbs Urso Brunov in a Cossack-style uniform, which, together with the textural art, suggests the ambience of Eastern European picture books of generations past. The art provides plenty of visual variety, from snarling wolves baring sharp teeth to rainbow-colored geese soaring through the night sky, which helps hold readers' attention but cannot overcome repetitious sequences and a prolix text. Ages 6–8. (Oct.)