Written and Illustrated by Max Kornell
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011
It started off just right.
The plot in a nutshell: A boy learns to cope with a new bear in the house.
Owen is an only child who is very happy with his life until his parents bring home a bear named Gary. He isn’t happy about this new development at all, especially when he learns that he is going to have to share his bedroom and toys with Gary. Later, he tries to play with his parents, but they are too busy doing things for Gary. Gary snores, is careless with toys and even breaks the backyard swing. But when Gary sees that Owen is upset, he invites him to play blocks with him and fixes the swing. They learn to live together happily and he realizes having Gary around is pretty great.
This is the debut picture book from author/illustrator (and first grade teacher) Max Kornell. At first, it seems like just a cute twist on the notion of a new sibling coming in and disrupting the life of the formerly only child, but there are some noteworthy differences. One of the biggest is that Gary doesn’t seem entirely happy in the scenario either, so when he reaches out to Owen, it’s a big improvement for both of them. I imagine that it may help an older sibling to think about things from the new baby’s point of view. The artwork is ink, watercolor and acrylics, with clearly cutout pictures set against colorful backgrounds. It’s a book about navigating your way to a healthy relationship that works for both parties and that’s always a good lesson, even if you’re a bear.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that disruptions in life can throw us, but with a little patience and understanding, you often realize they’re just what you needed.