Written by Karma Wilson, Illustrated by Jane Chapman
Margaret McElderry Books, 2002
In a cave in the woods,
in his deep dark lair,
through the long, cold winter
sleeps a great brown bear.
The plot in a nutshell: A hibernating bear sleeps through a party.
Bear sleeps all through the day and night, all through the cold winds blowing outside. A little mouse comes into the cave for shelter and lights a small fire to keep himself warm. But the bear doesn’t wake up. A hare sees Mouse inside the cave and stops by for a chat and the two friends pop some popcorn and brew some tea, but even though Hare burps pretty loudly, Bear keeps right on snoring. Badger joins the friends, bringing honey-nuts to share. Lots of other friends join the party in Bear’s cave and he sleeps on, oblivious to everything happening around him. But then, when they are making a pot of stew, some pepper gets up his nose, causing him to sneeze, which wakes him up. He growls at them, upset that they’ve all had fun without him, and he starts to cry. But Mouse points out that the fun isn’t over and he can join in now that he’s awake. So he sits up with his friends, all through the night, telling stories and having fun, but when morning comes, all his friends are snoring and he’s the only one awake.
This was the debut book from author Karma Wilson, whose full catalog now is up to around 40 books, including another eight or so in the Bear series, featuring these same characters. The story’s rhyming verses are easy and enjoyable to read, with a break in the rhyme scheme every so often to repeat a chorus that ‘the bear snores on’ which I imagine most children will love repeating with the reader. I think that Bear’s emotions on waking to discover the party going on around him are portrayed as very realistic and very relatable.
Illustrator Jane Chapman has partnered with Ms. Wilson for all of the Bear books and a few other books as well. Her acrylic artwork here is a large part of what makes this book a perfect choice for snowy bedtime reads. Bear and his friends are very expressive and adorable and the imagery of them having popcorn in the warm cave while the snow blows around outside is snuggle-into-your-comforter cozy.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that sometimes people seem angry about others having fun when what they are really feeling is sad because they were left out of it.