cover image The Bear Hug

The Bear Hug

Sean Callahan, , illus. by Laura J. Bryant. . Albert Whitman, $15.95 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-8075-0596-0

Bryant's (If You Were My Baby ) lighthearted pictures buoy this slight story of intergenerational ursine bonding. In debut author Callahan's tale, Grandpa Bear is teaching Cubby all the essential bear skills: how to growl, how to fish and swim, how to hibernate, and even how to savor a bear claw at the local doughnut shop. But is Cubby up to the biggest challenge of all—extricating himself from his grandpa's Bear Hug? The final pages reveal that Cubby's mastering of this skill is really just an excuse for some cherished grandfather-grandson play wrestling. Bryant's pictures are the book's strength. The mutual affection that emanates from the bears' tiny eyes feels utterly genuine, while their thick, shaggy coats—rendered in tiny ink strokes that resemble the whorls of a fingerprint—possess an endearing, cuddly feel. The scene of Grandpa and Cubby "hibernating" (they're actually snoozing in front of the TV on a snowy night) speaks volumes about the simple pleasures and enduring love of extended family life. Ages 3-6. (Mar.)