I Am Bear

Ben Bailey Smith, illus. by Sav Akyuz. Candlewick Entertainment, $15.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7743-5
British actor, rapper, and comic Smith's foray into children's books introduces a large purple bear with a knack for mischief. Bear isn't naturally purple, as readers learn in the opening sequence. "I am Bear./ and I am bare./ The suit I wear/ has purple hair," writes Smith as newcomer Akyuz shows the bear zipping himself into a furry purple bodysuit (Akyuz gets lots of comedic mileage out of the bear's ample rear end, which the bear shows off several times, in and out of his suit). Smith's clipped rhymes have a polish and punch that helps each joke and gag hit its mark, as when Bear tells a knock-knock joke to a squirrel ("Knock! Knock!/ Who's there?/ Munch, munch./ My lunch") that ends with the squirrel in his mouth. (Lest readers worry, the squirrel reappears a few pages later, just in time to get framed as a doughnut thief by Bear.) It's a zippy, over-in-a-minute escapade, but Akyuz's vibrant, painterly images and the sheer force of Bear's personality make a distinct mark. Ages 2-5. Author's agent: Robert Kirby, United Agents. Illustrator's agent: Jodie Hodges, United Agents. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/22/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Children's
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