cover image The Bravest Ever Bear

The Bravest Ever Bear

Allan Ahlberg. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0783-8

The creators of Mockingbird here serve up an appetizing series of ""Once upon a time..."" short takes that lead whimsically into one another. The title character offers a disparaging commentary on the initial entries (""What's going on?""; ""This is ridiculous""), then decides he will take over the writing. The ursine hero puts himself in the spotlight as he rescues Red Riding Hood and her grandmother from the wolf, bests the troll under a bridge and ties up a dragon that is ""eating everything--left, right, and center--and setting fire to things."" As part of his reward, the victorious bear receives the princess's hand in marriage, though the pigtailed royal will have none of it (""Anyway, I'm not marrying a bear""). In turn, she pens her own tale, in which she shirks footmen, French maids and princes and moves ""into an apartment with a couple of friends, started a career in television--and went shopping."" In addition to the villains, a penguin and a sausage who aspires to be a chef play supporting roles in this kid-tickling, episodic narrative that mixes familiar and never-before-seen characters (a sausage that cooks?), plot twists and bustling watercolor and pencil art into a silly and satisfying stew. Ages 6-8. (Feb.)