Written by Bill Martin, Jr., Illustrated by Eric Carle
Henry Holt and Company, 1967
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?
I see a red bird looking at me.
What makes this book so dangerous? A case of mistaken identity (the author was confused for a Marxist with the same name)
The brown bear sees a red bird and the red bird sees a yellow duck looking at him. The yellow duck sees a blue horse, who sees a green frog. He sees a purple cat being looked at by a white dog who sees a black sheep. The black sheep sees a goldfish and the goldfish sees a teacher. The teacher sees children, who report seeing everything listed in the book.
Author Bill Martin, Jr. wrote this and a couple of others in a similar vein, featuring panda bears and polar bears, as well as the Chicka Chicka series. It’s a very simple book that is appropriate for very young readers and is most often seen as a board book for toddlers. And no, there is absolutely nothing objectionable about the content of this book. Yet it was, indeed, banned from the curriculum in Texas due to confusion over the author’s name. The school board banned a book on Marxism written by a man named Bill Martin. A member of the school board assumed this was the same author and included this book in the ban without reading it. Don’t get me started.
The illustrations are everything you would expect from picture book legend Eric Carle, with lots of big, colorful shapes to capture the attention of the youngest readers. In some versions of the book, the teachers and students become a mother and children and in the UK, the teacher is replaced by a monkey. Whichever version you read, it’s a great way to introduce little ones to colors and animals.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that this world is filled with lots of amazing things to see, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re looking around.