Written and Illustrated by Brett Helquist
Harper Collins, 2011
It was just after the first snowfall when Bear’s friends came running to his house.
The plot in a nutshell: A bear wants to sleep but his friends want one more playtime.
Bear is already in his pajamas and tucked into bed when his raccoon friends show up, wanting to play one more time before hibernation, since they won’t see Bear again until spring. Bear tells them it’s his bedtime and tries to go to sleep, but he can hear them outside having fun and laughing. They call to him one more time, asking him to come out for just a little while. He opens the door to tell them he’s trying to sleep and they hit him with a snowball. He starts to chase after them and slips in the snow, tumbling down a hill and taking his friends with him. Bear starts laughing and decides that maybe he can have a little playtime after all. They slide down the hill again, build a snowman and have a snowball fight. The raccoons are tired, but Bear encourages them to play just a little longer, since they won’t see each other until spring. Then Bear heads back to bed and they all say goodnight.
Author/illustrator Brett Helquist is probably best known for his illustrations for Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books. This is the second time he has stepped into the author role and it’s a really likeable story that feels like it’s more about friendship than it is about going to bed. I felt that the story seemed like a metaphor for parenthood and the experience of your kids growing up. The raccoons remind Bear that they are going to be apart for a long while so they should enjoy some more time while they have it. I remember when my kids were all on the verge of moving out and moving on with their lives and there was that sense of wanting to enjoy all the time we had before it became harder for us all to get together. That may not have been in his mind at all, but that’s what resonated with me.
Of course, Mr. Helquist is a gifted illustrator and his artwork here is colorful and detailed. Bear’s orange spotted pajamas stand out perfectly against the snowy woods and create a really nice visual complement to the raccoons’ striped scarf and cap. I love the last image of Bear, drifting off to sleep (with his adorable stuffed bunny) with his eyes half-closed and a very satisfied smile on his face. I liked this book a lot.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that sleeping is important but there are things worth staying awake a little longer for.