cover image Snug


Mary Elizabeth Hanson. Simon & Schuster, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81164-7

Exquisitely crafted cut-paper collages don't manage to redeem this wordy, poorly focused story about a mother bear and her cub. Snug wants to play; Mother wants to teach him bear skills like digging up bulbs, catching a fistful of ants for a snack and fishing. Unfortunately, Hanson (Foghorn) wavers disconcertingly between anthropomorphism and nature study. Snug has a child's emotions, but if Mother isn't 100% bearlike, she is certainly bearish: she ""grumbles,"" ""growls"" and ""snarls"" at her offspring. When Snug finds Mother ""more frightening than a flood,"" youngest readers are likely to agree, and they will probably be alienated by the end, when Mother finally plays with her cub. More harmonious as a whole than the events they depict, Taylor's (Coconut Man) illustrations are expertly assembled from vividly hand-colored and intriguingly textured handmade papers. The bears and other figures are backed with other papers, for a tidy outline effect and for a bit of dimension. A well-chosen scale minimizes Mother's menacing qualities, and dynamic compositions may hold readers' interest as the text, like Mother, lumbers on. Ages 3-7. (May)