Sam McBratney, , illus. by Anita Jeram. . Candlewick, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2442-2

Jeram brings her gifts in ursine portraiture (evidenced in Kiss Goodnight ) to bear on a sweet, if rather neatly resolved text by McBratney, her collaborator in Guess How Much I Love You . A mother and father bear face an age-old dilemma: how can they prove there's enough parental love for all three of their cubs? Mommy and Daddy may insist they have "the most wonderful baby bears in the whole wide world," but the baby bears reason, "We can't all be the best." Jeram shows each cub anxiously pondering a possible shortcoming: the eldest has no patches ("Maybe his mommy really really liked patches"), the middle one is the only girl, and the littlest is... well, small. But Daddy persuades his cubs that those qualities do not matter. He recalls that when the bears were born, Mommy Bear declared each one "the most perfect" example of a first, second and third baby bear, respectively. While this answer mollifies the cubs (they fall asleep on their mother's capacious tummy), readers may find a reassurance tied to the siblings' birth order to be more unsettling than comforting. Jeram's pictures are so beguiling, however, that she smoothes over this considerable rough spot. By sketching in only the barest suggestions of setting, she allows the bears to speak far more eloquently through their postures, expressions and cuddles. Ages 3-7. (Oct.)