Written and Illustrated by Tao Nyeu
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2008
Previously Reviewed Books from this Author: Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always
In the first pictures, we see a boy and girl tending a garden, with two rows labeled as watermelons and one small patch with a blue hat sign posted above it. The children fall asleep next to the garden and a huge and gorgeous flower blooms overnight. A white bear in a blue hat emerges from the biggest blossom and begins the fun by pulling a collection of monkeys from his hat. The monkeys build a pyramid and the bear launches the children to the top with a cannon. After blowing bubbles into animal shapes, he chews up some leaves and puffs out a variety of sea creatures, who fly the bear, children and monkeys off into the sky. They fly up to the moon and then back down to the water, where they swim back to the land and the garden that started it all. The bear tucks the sleeping children into bed, climbs into his hat and sails away into the night sky.
Okay, I admit that this reads like a particularly vivid drug-induced hallucination. But this book was the debut publication of the wonderful Tao Nyeu, who can take the most fanciful ideas and make them seem adorably plausible. This book, totally without words, was originally the thesis project for her MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and was inspired by an unusual gummy bear. (Okay, so it’s a gummy bear-induced hallucination.)
I love that there are no words in this book, because it doesn’t need them to progress the story forward and I can’t help feeling that text would break the spell and distract from the magic. Ms. Nyeu’s color palettes are blues, greens, oranges and yellows and they all work together perfectly in the water-based ink silkscreened pictures. She does wonderful things with patterns within these color palettes and you can’t help feeling sad when Wonder Bear flies off, indicating that the book is over.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that there are adventures out there that defy description and everyone should have at least one.