cover image The Bear Under the Stairs: 9

The Bear Under the Stairs: 9

Helen Cooper. Dial Books, $12.99 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1279-9

Anyone who's ever suffered an irrational fear will sympathize heartily with William, who's convinced that a grizzly bear lurks in the closet beneath the stairs. His apprehension blossoms to the point where he begins saving morsels from meals and tossing them quickly into the closet (``wham, bang, thump!'') as tokens of appeasement. Finally, his mother sniffs out the problem (literally), and tackles it head-on, sending William's fear packing (and the bear as well--a tongue-in-cheek final illustration shows the grizzly parachuting into new territory, carpetbag in hand). Cooper's sunny approach to a common childhood anxiety is bolstered by deft use of light and shadow in her soft-focus watercolor and pencil art, which visually reinforces the elusive, imaginary nature of William's concern. Ages 3-7. (June)