cover image Bear's Picture

Bear's Picture

Daniel Manus Pinkwater, , illus. by D.B. Johnson. . Houghton, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-618-75923-1

Imaginative illustrations from a notable ursine stylist, Johnson (Henry Hikes to Fitchburg ), lend pizzazz to this reillustrated 1972 bear-centric tale from Pinkwater, author of the Larry polar bear series. Bear, depicted in speckled charcoal with a sky-blue glint in his eyes, is painting a picture in rainbow hues. As Bear paints, “two fine, proper gentlemen” in natty attire stroll by and comment on his work. “Bears can't paint pictures,” they sniff. “Nobody can tell what it is supposed to be.” Bear, “mixing just the right kind of yellow,” calmly contradicts them and keeps painting. Through the “gentlemen's” patronizing dialogue, Pinkwater conjures sympathy for the childlike yet confident Bear. Johnson borrows Jon Agee's upright style for the men's pointy noses and broad comic gestures, reinforcing the words with sly visual details. When Bear asserts that his abstract piece depicts a tree by a stream, Johnson pictures the flustered critics sinking into the water within the image so that only their distinctive hats remain, while the action of the grayscale-tinted characters is made to complement the still painting's energetic palette. Readers who follow the lead of curving type and invert the book see a multicolored bear's face in the finished painting, aptly concluding this paean to self-expression. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)