If there's one way to bribe BookBairn into reviewing your book first, it's by sending her ...'The Bear Who Stared' by Duncan Beedie. But in all seriousness this one probably jumped to the top of the list because I was able to read it with her straight away as she munched on the chocolate (there are not many times she chooses to sit still during the day: when eating, watching TV or reading but best chances are when you combine two of those listed, and lets face it you can't read and watch TV at the same time!). And because we were able to read this one as soon as it arrived (which isn't true for all our book post) it has really captured her imagination!
'The Bear Who Stared' tells the story of a bear who likes to stare at the other creatures in the forest. He stares at the ladybirds as they eat their breakfast, he stares at the bird as she feeds her babies, and, rather unwisely, he pokes his nose in a badger's sett and stares. But the other animals don't like all this staring. Before long, Bear finds himself sitting by the pond and pondering all the other animals reactions to his staring. He was just curious but too shy to say anything. And along hops a frog who can sympathise with Bear and his staring. When you have big goggly frog eyes it's hard not to stare! Bear stares into the murky green pond to see another bear staring back at him. And that bear's mouth turned into a smile. Frog tells Bear that when he doesn't know what to say, just smile! So Bear returns to the forest to see the ladybirds, birds and badgers again but this time he is armed with a smile. And, of course, Bear makes lots of new friends! But none quite as perfect a match as the green wobbly pond-bear!
I love the message of this story. Learning to make friends can be hard, and knowing what to say can be nerve-wracking. (Whether you are an adult or a child!) But being armed with a great smile really can break the ice. And what a great thing to teach little ones. BookBairn has certainly learned to charm grown-ups with her smile. She flashes her pearly-whites whenever she can, especially if I'm trying to encourage her to say "hello" or "goodbye" but she's feeling shy and keeps quiet - she will usually give a grin instead!
The illustrations are, without a doubt, the bit that BookBairn loves the most. First I should point out that the bear is orange, her favourite colour, and so instantly appeals. She is also a huge fan of the frog and likes to turn the pages to find him.
The illustrations are simple allowing the main characters to stand out. I really like books that don't over-detail the background as they allow younger children to focus on the real story-telling action rather than being distracted by other extra details. Also, you can read the emotion on the characters' faces with ease. You don't need to read the words to see how they are feeling: another element that supports younger readers in understanding the story. That's not to say it wouldn't also appeal to early school-aged children as there is lots to discuss. Our only criticism is that I feel the book is a little too long for BookBairn, we've only managed to read it cover to cover a few times as we get near the end and she wants to go back to the beginning or back to her favourite page with the frog.
This would make a wonderful gift for children who are struggling with shyness, or are about to go into a new situation like starting nursery or school, or if like BookBairn you are a fan or green goggly-eyed frogs or orange bears!
This book will certainly bring a smile to your face! And if in doubt, enjoy reading it with a chocolate bear - that did the trick with BookBairn!