cover image The Perfect Bear

The Perfect Bear

Gillian Shields, , illus. by Gary Blythe. . Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-5363-0

If the Velveteen Rabbit first had to overcome a horror of being handled, that classic could become this more didactic and sentimental tale. Writing in spare prose, from the point of view of a “very grand” white stuffed bear with a music box inside him, Shields (The Starlight Baby ) emphasizes the old cliché that “it’s what’s inside us that’s important.” Blythe’s (The Whale’s Song ) astonishingly realistic oil paintings leaven the misty-eyed story. He subtly changes the bear’s expressions as his owner, a girl, breaks and then discards his music box and sews up his fur with black stitches. The three-hankie plot, on the other hand, can go over the top: lamenting his now-shabby appearance, the bear’s “brown eyes [gleam] as if they had tears in them.” In the end, the bear is lost and reunited with “his girl”: “He had the oddest feeling in the empty place where his old music box had been. It was... love.” Many readers will lap this up. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)