No Bears, by Meg McKinlay & Leila Rudge

I’m in charge of this book so I know everything about it – including the most important thing, which is that there are NO BEARS in it.
I’m tired of bears. Every time you read a book it’s just BEARS BEARS BEARS – horrible furry bears slurping honey in grotty little caves.
You don’t need BEARS for a book.

Ruby is the boss of this book and if she says there are no bears then there will be no bears – or will there? Ruby is determined to create a tale which is scary, exciting and pretty all at once – and contains no bears. So she tells a delightful story which meets all her requirements – except perhaps one. While she makes no mention of bears (except to say that there’s none of them) the young reader/viewer will love spotting the bear lurking in the book – and contributing to the action.

Author Meg McKinley’s clever text is gorgeously complemented by the quirky digital illustrations of Leila Rudge for a whole which is whimsical, humorous and, simply delightful. A fun bedtime read full of gentle giggles for younger readers, with perhaps a bit of a message about inclusivity and friendship for older readers.

No Bears

No Bears, by Meg McKinley & Leila Rudge
Walker Books, 2011
ISBN 9781921529924

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Very Itchy Bear, by Nick Bland

This is Flea about to bite
but not because he’s impolite.
He’s biting Bear to say,
biting high
and biting low.

Bear is sitting quietly by himself when Flea comes to visit. Unfortunately for Bear, the way Flea says hello is by biting him – here, there and everywhere. This, of course, makes Bear itchy, and soon his itching frenzy sends Bear and Flea off on an adventure out to sea. And it is there, where Bear ends up alone floating on a log whilst Flea looks set to become a seagull’s dinner, that the pair establish an unlikely friendship.

The Very Itchy Bear sees the gorgeous bear star of A Very Cranky Bear return in an equally gorgeous sequel. Whilst the bear is the same, this offering stands alone, so that familiarity with the first is not necessary.

The rhyming text is a delight to read aloud, making it lots of fun for sharing sessions, and the illustrations bring the bear to life. Flea is, for the most part, just a speck, because of his size difference, but in one illustration we see him grinning sheepishly, perched on the end of a single hair.

A wonderful offering for preschoolers.

The Very Itchy Bear

The Very Itchy Bear, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, 2010
ISBN 9781741696516

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online through Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Very Cranky Bear, by Nick Bland

In the Jingle Jangle Jungle on a cold and rainy day
four little friends found a perfect place to play…
None of them had noticed that someone else was there.
Sleeping in that cave was a very cranky BEAR!

When Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep take refuge from the rain in a nice warm cave, they don’t expect to meet a cranky bear. Soon, they are out in the rain again, and must try to find a way to placate Bear if they are to get back inside the cave. Lion, Zebra and Moose all think Bear will be happier if he looks more like them, but Sheep, who is very plain, is not so sure. And it is Sheep who, eventually, finds a solution to Bear’s crankiness and a warm place for the four friends to shelter.

The Very Cranky Bear is a funny picture book with rhyming text and humorous illustrations. Author/illustrator Bland manages to blend dark and light so that the fearsome bear and his dark cave are lightened by both bright touches and cute facial expressions. The Bear, whilst described as cranky, manages to look, at times, just like a grumpy toddler. The rhyming text flows from page to page with a lively rhythm and plenty of clues for youngsters to guess at rhyming words.

Lots of fun, The Very Cranky Bear is a great read-aloud offering.

The Very Cranky Bear

The Very Cranky Bear, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Australia, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Too Tight, Benito

Benito Bear had grown during the long days of summer…

Benito has enjoyed his warm-weather romps, but now it is time to crawl into his cubby-hole to sleep for the winter. But when he tries, he discovers his hole is too tight – he has grown during the summer. So Benito sets out to find a new hole – without much success. Every other hole is either too small, too high or too smelly. Finally, Benito returns to his hole and discovers that some hard work will make his hole just right.

Too Tight, Benito is a beautiful picture book with simple text, humorous twists and turns and sumptuous illustrations. Benito romps from hole to hole, accompanied by a nameless squirrel who is not mentioned in the text – although alluded to in the final page when we learn that Benito’s hole has room for one more. A pleasure to read aloud, and a visual delight, this offering will become a firm favourite with adults and children alike.

Too Tight, Benito!

Too Tight, Benito, by Janeen Brian & Judith Rossell
Little Hare, 2008

This book can be purchased from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Bertie and the Bear, by Pamela Allen

Reviewed by Alison Miles


Rambunctious, vivid, active and full of wonderfully repeatable words – this could be said of any of Pamela Allen’s picture story books, and is true of Bertie. No wonder she is often in the awards lists and her books are in library bags everywhere.

Allen’s colourful illustrations ‘above the line’ suggest movement from the first endpaper. Her use of white space focuses the eye on her characters. Bertie is being chased by a bear (who I think is really his friend) so the Queen steps in to shoo the bear away. The others join the chase for the fun and the opportunity to make a lot of musical noise (trumpet, gong, horn, flute, drum and voice playing BLAH! BLAH! and BONG BONG-NG-NG and OOOOOH! etc).

Impossible to read quietly, children in the three to six year old age group love to imitate the sounds and stamp and twirl with the characters. Allen has used handwritten crayon text within the illustrations to emphasise sounds. Her words are expressive with onomatopoeia used infectiously. The whole story is like a very active musical and movement piece (which could be printed on a scroll) fading gently to a pom pom at the last. As Bertie and the Bear so vividly conveys, children enjoy music and movement and this makes storytime fun!

Bertie and the Bear, by Pamela Allen
Penguin, 1990
ISBN 0140509720

Review © alison v miles, 2006. The Word Box blog @

Little Red Bear, by Penny Matthews and Anna Pignataro

When Hanna and her busy mother go for a quick walk, Hanna sees a litte red bear sitting alone on a wall outside an office building. He seems to be lost. Back at home, Hanna can’t stop worrying about the bear, especially when it gets windy and, the next day, wet.

Hanna’s mother is too busy to go and check on the bear, but Hanna knows what it’s like to be afraid, so she sneaks out and goes looking for him. When she finds him, wet and bedraggled, she takes him home to her worried mother.

Little Red Bear is a story about a girl and a toy bear, but it is also about reassurance and connectedness. Hanna forms a connection with the bear, relating to its being alone and uncared for. When she runs away to rescue the bear, she also learns that her busy mother does care for her. The warmth that she feels when she holds the bear in front of the fire comes from more than the feeling of having a new toy – it is, more importantly, from the reassurance of knowing she is loved.

The rich water colour illustrations by Anna Pignataro enrich this calm, heart-warming story. Hanna and the bear add colour to the muted beiges and olives of the stormy landscape, with a visual connection between the two forged by the almost-red brown of Hanna’s hair just a little darker the red of the bear. Hanna’s house and mother are similarly drab in tonings, with Hanna being the only colour in the house, until the arrival of the bear.

This is such a gentle story that youngsters are unlikely to conciously realise the lesson of reassurance that it holds, but parent readers will be sure to take note of the message that is there for adults.

Little Red Bear, by Penny Matthews and Anna Pignataro
Scholastic, First Published 2003, this edition 2005