Bear Stays Up – Book Review

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Some authors just have it – that ability to write stories in rhyme for young children that simply dance off the page and spill off the tongue with a tempo and fluidity that make them so easy to read aloud and so captivating for a child to listen to. Karma Wilson is one such author, whose work I have learned to appreciate this year.

Karma’s books were part of my long to-be-read list that I took with me to the US this summer – books I didn’t have access to where I live in France. My first of five library visits during my vacation, took me to the splendid central, public library in New York. I piled up maybe twenty picture books on the floor and flopped down next to them on the rug in the children’s area. I immediately became a magnet to a bunch of young children unused, I guess, to an adult reading these alone. Unable to shake off inquisitive little intrusions, I ended up reading “Bear Snores On” by Karma Wilson to a bunch of them, which, of course, they adored.

I decided I needed to add one of Karma’s books to my own picture book collection, so today’s review is “Bear Stays Up” written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman.

“The day before Christmas,

snuggled on his floor,

Bear sleeps soundly

with a great big snore.”

The scene is set – will Bear hibernate through yet another Christmas day, or will his faithful band of animal friends manage to keep him awake? Having read quite a few now in the Bear series, I, like all children, can’t wait to see what this group of friends will get up to – Mouse, Mole, Hare, Gopher, Badger, Wren, Raven, and, of course, Bear. Jane Chapman’s illustrations of these forest animals are rich, full of emotion and wonderfully flesh out each of the characters, partnering perfectly with the text.

Well, everyone pitches in to keep Bear awake as they go through the typical pre- Christmas day preparations of finding the tree, decorating it, hanging up stockings, singing carols…. Finally, as Christmas Eve comes to a close, all the animals are weary from their festive exertions and fall asleep. Bear alone remains awake now, and in the usual spirit of friendship of all the Bear books, he busies himself with making Christmas surprises for his friends. He does not, however, see the biggest surprise of all, Santa making a visit that Christmas Eve night!

Karma manages to vary pace and tone with her rhyme, and yet  adds enough predictability to engage pre-K children with ease. The illustrations are truly priceless, filling each two-page spread with warm brown tones of the lair’s interior or purples and blues of a snowy midwinter’s night, and bringing each animal to life. You’ve time to buy this one to set the tone for this Christmas.

For all you aspiring writers, I encourage you to follow and interact with, where you can, authors in your genre whom you admire. You can like Karma’s Facebook Page and not only enjoy her humour, but also regular, helpful writing tips that she gives.

This is #90 in the There’s a Book Read to Me Picture Book Challenge.

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18 Responses to Bear Stays Up – Book Review

  1. Aww… sounds like a real heartwarming book and a perfect picture book to include this December. I could also envision you in the middle of swarming, squealing little tykes in the library – must have been a picture perfect moment. 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      I am sure you will have some of the Bear books in your library, Myra. Karma has written some other wonderful ones in rhyme like “A Frog in a Bog” too. I hope, one day, to attempt picture books in verse and thus appreciate these examples.

      And, yes, I did have a blast reading to those New York kids. I LOVE reading aloud!

  2. Susanna says:

    Funny you should mention this! In my continuing quest to master our craft, I literally just read Hogwash and Bear’s Loose Tooth 🙂 Karma is a master.

  3. Love this review! I *think* I’ve read this book, but I am definitely going to make sure I’ve read it before Christmas! And I was delighted to picture you reading to the kids in that magnificent library.

    • Joanna says:

      If you have already read this one, then take a look at some of her others, Beth, there’s quite a few out there! As someone who really appreciates good meter, I know you will love them.

  4. Patricia Tilton says:

    Loved your story about sitting with a pile of books at the museum. Bet the kids were nicelysurprised. You didn’t take a picture? I have never seen this book or am familiar with the author. Will have to read it. Sounds like the lyrics work well. Also like the boldness of the cover. I love Christmas books, and this one sounds delightful!

  5. Joanna says:

    Of course, the kids just took it in their stride – the parents were the really surprised ones!

  6. Diane says:

    Ahhhh, your connection with children shines through Joanna. I too would love to have seen a photo, but I can certainly imagine you on the floor crosslegged reading aloud to them. This is a lovely book, you certainly know how to find the most cutiest stories with animals. Love it because it has animals and Christmas time, all rolled into one.

  7. Joanna says:

    This is a real winner, even out of season, Diane!

  8. Ciara Knight says:

    Every year I look for the perfect Christmas Eve book to read to my boys. I think I’ve found it. Thank you!

  9. Lori D says:

    We love bear!! Years ago, I started a bringing a basket of books to our family Christmas for all of my great-nieces and nephews to pick one as a gift from me. (there are way too many kiddos for me to do individual wrapped gifts for) “Bear Stays Up” is one that I keep *in stock*. 🙂 Very sweet.

    • Joanna says:

      What a fab idea, Lori, for a big family. Do you have a favorite from all the “Bear” books?

      I am so glad you also let me know that you finally got hold of “The Snow Leopard” and that the boys loved it 🙂

  10. Whoa, I’m a huge Karma Wilson fan but hadn’t heard of this book yet! Can’t WAIT to get it. Great review – thanks!

  11. Hi, Joanna, nice review! I love Karma Wilson’s picture books. She does have a certain magic!

  12. Love the Bear books. We just read Bear’s loose tooth!!

    ~ Lauri Chandler

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