This book came into our library as a gift a year ago, and to my way of thinking was far too advanced for our then 18-month old. But it quickly became a favourite, and has remained so ever since.
This is a tale about a little (toddler) polar bear who is keen to be as big and run as fast as his mother. Each page is illustrated with the mother and child bears playing together, either wrestling in the snow, diving into the water, or stretching up to the sky. And each charming illustration of the two bears is further enhanced by a velvet feely-touchy sensation wherever they have fur.
It’s a simple story of how a child yearns to have mastered all the skills required for adult life, and how the parent is there to guide and teach. And to cuddle!
I love a lot about this book, and the aspect I love the most is the depiction of great parenting in the character of the mother bear. Sometimes children’s books depict parents being too busy, too frazzled or too absent for the interaction children long for – and this is probably a very realistic aspect of contemporary childhood. But this book shows a mother bear who structures some fantastic learning experiences for her child bear, all the time taking him seriously, treating his dreams and ambitions with complete respect while reassuring him that she loves him as he is.
But the illustrations are an on-going joy as well, with the restricted colour palette of the Arctic (whites, blues and greens) being beautifully explored and nuanced as the bears’ day proceeds. With such a limited field of colour one would expect a toddler might quickly tire of the illustrations, but in fact the reverse seems to be the case, with my son eager to point out little differences that he notices as the activities of the bears change.
Written by David Bedford and illustrated by Jane Chapman, Big Bear Little Bear was first published in 2001, and reissued in 2006 (all by Little Tiger Press http://www.littletigerpress.com). Highly recommended for any toddler, and I’m sure this book would still be charming well into the early school years.