The Very Cranky Bear


Written and Illustrated by Nick Bland

Orchard Books, 2008

In the Jingle Jangle Jungle on a cold and rainy day,

Four little friends found a perfect place to play.

The plot in a nutshell: Four friends want to cheer up a cranky bear.

Zebra, Lion, Moose and Sheep are playing in a warm and dry cave until they realize that it’s the home of a grumpy bear, who chases them out. Zebra feels that Bear would be happier if he had stripes. Moose thinks it’s antlers that would make him happier and Lion votes for a mane. Sheep, not having any particularly distinctive features, doesn’t weigh in on the subject. Zebra, Moose and Lion go back into the cave and give Bear stripes, antlers and a mane, but he is still angry (if not angrier). Bear complains that all he wants is a quiet place to sleep and Sheep shears off her wool, makes a pillow of it and gives it to Bear, who happily falls asleep.


Whatever this critter is, it doesn’t look happy.

Author/illustrator Nick Bland wraps a really good lesson into this silly and unexpected rhyming story. The first three friends are initially described by their particular physical traits (stripes, mane, and antlers) while the sheep is just noted as being plain, which feels very easily correlated to the human world as well. It’s easy for people to believe that others will be happier if they have a particular hair color or body shape or ethnicity. But most often, the one thing someone needs isn’t related to any of that and it takes someone willing to actually listen rather than coming up with conclusions based on their own experiences. I love that we get to see that the sheep seems way happier after he gives some of his wool to solve the bear’s problem than he was anywhere in the rest of the book. There’s a nice message there about the way that kindness lifts the spirits of the giver as well as the receiver.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that the things that give you joy may not have the same appeal to others so for best results, listen to them and act in their interest.


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