cover image The Bear and Mr. Bear

The Bear and Mr. Bear

Frances Thomas. Dutton Books, $14.99 (28pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45362-8

""Grumpy and cross, shaggy and unsmiling,"" the village curmudgeon is commonly known as Mr. Bear. When a carnival arrives in town, Mr. Bear comes face to face with a real bear. Everyone else laughs and applauds as the bear, chained with a ring through his nose, is made to ``dance'' when jabbed with a stick. Mr. Bear, however, recognizes the pain in the captive animal's dull eyes, and devises a plan to rescue him. As he frees the bear from mistreatment, the old man gradually frees himself as well. Thomas tells by indirection, reaching a range of readers. The very young might identify mostly with the bear; older children will see the nuances of the man's character. Employing a palette warmed by sepia tones, Brown (The Picnic) cloaks the story in medieval images. Vibrant flags and the costumes of jesters mix with the peasants' somber clothing. Inviting spreads depict sweeping natural landscapes as well as the stone textures and the varied architectural forms in town. A powerful fusion of narrative and art. Ages 4-7. (Jan.)