Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?
Martin Waddell. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-007-9
Move over, Goodnight Moon . Margaret Wise Brown's enduring bedtime classic may have found a worthy successor in this collaboration by Waddell and Firth ( The Park in the Dark ; We Love Them ). Their gentle story is, in fact, highly reminiscent of Brown at her snug and cozy best. Set in a forest in winter, the tale features a winning bear duo--a great tender-hearted fellow named Big Bear and an exuberant toddler named Little Bear. After a busy day playing in the snow, the two retire to the Bear Cave, where Little Bear is bundled off to his bed in a shadowy corner while Big Bear settles down to read by the fireside. When Little Bear can't sleep--``I don't like the dark''--Big Bear fetches a tiny lantern and returns to his chair. This exchange is repeated several times, with Big Bear patiently bringing ever-larger lanterns, until finally the little chap points at the dark outside. The two venture forth to look at the night (``I've brought you the moon, Little Bear,'' said Big Bear. ``The bright yellow moon and all the twinkly stars''), and the cub falls asleep in Big Bear's arms. Waddell's tranquil tale is perfectly attuned to a child's need for security and bedtime ritual; combined with Firth's serene watercolors, it's a triumph of genuine affection. Young readers will delight in the text's repetition and revel in the illustrations' warm details--as Big Bear reads in the aptly named Bear Chair (complete with claws and paws), for example, Little Bear can be glimpsed frolicking on his bed. These memorable bruins--worthy companions of Pooh and Paddington--inhabit a sweet, reassuring world that children (and adults) will want to enter again and again. Ages 3-up. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/02/1992