cover image No Bears

No Bears

Meg McKinlay, illus. by Leila Rudge. Candlewick, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5890-8

A humble bear is the unsung hero of this story-within-a-story told by Ella. “Every time you read a book,” Ella complains, “it’s just bears bears bears—horrible furry bears slurping honey in awful little caves.” In the bear-free story Ella invents, which unspools within small color spreads that leave plenty of room for action in the white space of the margins, a princess is stolen away by a monster. Ella says the princess is saved by her fairy godmother, but readers see that it’s really the friendly bear, lurking in the periphery, who borrows the fairy godmother’s wand and defeats the monster. Rudge’s artwork looks something like Oliver Jeffers’s; her illustrations, Ella’s bossy-pants narration, and the many cameos by favorite fairy tale characters all contribute to the success of this primer in irony. Ella’s final claim that her story was good “because there were no bears in it. Not one!” is countered by the characters (Red Riding Hood, a wolf) pointing mutely to the bear; a coda that gives the bear its due adds to the charm of the whole. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)