The Bear's Song cover

Happy New Year everyone! December was such a crazy month. I’m so glad I did another year of 25 Days of Christmas books and the Cybils round 1 panelist job was a blast but incredibly exhausting leading right up into the holiday. Thanks for being patient with my bit of an extended break. I hope you’ll come back and read with me again! I am now ready for a new year of reviews and lists and other fun book blogging ideas my brain is sorting through.

To start off the new year, I cannot wait to share this book with you. Did you see the list of Cybils finalists revealed last week? Our fiction crew had such a hard time narrowing it down to our seven choices; but this one made the list and I fought hard for it too! I cannot wait to see what the final Cybils choices are; but in the meantime, allow me to convince you of this book’s beauty as well. This is The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud, 2013.

The Bear's Song endpapers

At first glance, this book boasts of its specialness. It has a large format size, which I’ve heard is a librarian’s nightmare, but I find it to be an absolute delight. Sure, it currently sits on the floor up against the bookshelves since it won’t fit in any cubby; but I’ll forgive it for wanting its own space because it is glorious to behold. The colors are rich and sophisticated. The illustrations are sketchy, detailed and a feast for the eyes. And just check out those endpages pictured above. Lovely.

Now, on to the story. There is a Papa Bear and a Little Bear – but not to be confused with the many other “Little Bears” in children’s literature. It is winter and time for hibernation according to the Papa, whom as every parent sympathizes, is ready for the rest. Little Bear however gets distracted by his tummy and a bee. He sets off on a chase and the adventure begins.

The Bear's Song spread 1

Papa Bear awakes with a start and rushes to find his Little Bear. The forest holds no sign of the cub and the city boasts noise, smoke and decoys of sorts. He spies Little Bear racing into an opera house and follows suit, becoming quite the distraction himself, until the crazy whirlwind search climaxes with a fall onto the stage during a performance.

The Bear's Song spread 2

Fearful and unsure what to do, Papa bear decides to sing the Bear’s Song, “a lullaby that all bears love.” His song has an unintended and absolutely hilarious affect on the audience, but ends up reuniting him with his beloved cub and leads to the book’s cuddle-worthy conclusion.

The Bear's Song spread 3

My love for this book is strong. Every page is packed full with illustration just begging to be pored over. It could be overwhelming, but the way Chaud has handled his simple narrative and the placement of the text, as well as the composition of the illustrations, aids in making it a joy instead of a headache. Every spread holds a picture of the Papa Bear and most have the Little Bear which are cleverly exciting to find amongst the chaos. Many side stories and scenes occur in each spread and various details abound to pick up with every read. I love that it has a somewhat Where’s Waldo feel in the extravagant seek-and-find scenes of each page, but it is executed in a more refined, and (dare I say) European way.

This book is indeed a European import originally published in France in 2011. Benjamin Chaud is best known around the U.S. for his illustrations in the Pomelo books. I was just pondering and discussing the different feel of European picture books the other day and although I haven’t decided what exactly it is that sets them apart from the American illustrated market, I do think there is a unique style. As my faithful readers know, I’m a sucker for the uncoated paper stock and I love Chaud’s deep and spare color palette. His characters have a loose, comic feel to them and the bears themselves are just so darling in shape and expressions. After falling hard for this book, (thanks to Chronicle Books for bringing it into English!) I was very enthralled to see this trailer that appears to be a sequel of sorts for this Papa and cub duo. Here’s hoping it makes its way here soon!

Many happy wishes on your January and the reading that this new year brings. I’ll be snuggling with this book often for although I’m not a bear, I love this particular Bear’s Song too!