cover image When Bear Came Down from the Sky

When Bear Came Down from the Sky

Tree De Gerez. Viking Children's Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85171-3

``In the days when stones were turnips and kept growing and growing and growing''-so begins de Gerez's graceful adaptation of a Finno-Ugric folktale. The story concerns Bear, the constellation ``who lived in the sky with his family of stars'' but who is filled with curiosity about Earth. Sky Father, weary of the bruin's badgering, suggests he go and investigate and-in a whimsical touch-Bear descends in ``a basket of gold coins with a long, long, silver, shining chain.'' His ensuing explorations and discoveries culminate in the first snowfall, when Bear heeds Sky Father's advice to ``sleep half the winter.'' Desimini's familiar deep colors, flattened perspectives and overall stylized approach lend an appropriate folk-art feel to these fanciful proceedings, but her Bear suffers somewhat from an absence of facial expressiveness. Though short on action, this slight tale is long on charm (despite occasional repetition), and de Gerez's straightforward, often poetic prose (text on some pages is arranged in poetic stanzas) adds spirit to an unusual myth. Ages 3-8. (Oct.)