The Christmas Bears

cover

Written and Illustrated by Chris Conover

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008

Christmas is coming!

The plot in a nutshell:  Bears prepare for Christmas.

Mama Bear bakes cookies for everyone and all the cubs make Christmas cards and mail them off to all their friends and family. Pa has been busy making toys and the cubs all get to help test them. Ma prepares a big Christmas Eve feast for everyone and then Pa dresses in his red suit and climbs into his sleigh, with a big bag of toys to deliver. Mama and the cubs trim the tree and go to bed for a good night’s sleep before waking up to the excitement of Christmas morning.

If you’re a fan of bears or Christmas (or both, as the case may be), you are sure to enjoy this holiday offering from author/illustrator Chris Conover.  The text is minimal with just one rhyming couplet on every other page and there’s not much actual plot here at all, although it kind of raises the question of whether or not every animal species has its own version of Santa Claus. Mostly, it’s just a joyful house full of nine different types of bears enjoying the holiday to the fullest. I’m sure I’m overthinking this, but the fact that all of these bears are presented as siblings feels like a subtle nod toward adoption and blended families, which is actually very sweet.

soup

I love their hats, especially the one with the flaps.

In this book, the artwork is the real star, with every other page as a double-page spread showing all the bears happily celebrating Christmas. The illustrations are full of warm colors and great details, with the different bears depicted very distinctly to help you tell them apart. Also helping with that is a map on the book’s endpapers that show you the geographic regions where each type of bear is found in the wild. Kids will be glad to see that lovable koalas and pandas are included, but it’s nice that she’s added the lesser known species, such as sun bears and sloth bears, too. Probably best for younger kids, but there’s a lot to love about this one.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that all the fun traditions of Christmas are even more fun when you’re surrounded by friends and family.

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