As I was starting out on my writing career a little under two years ago, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with an author local to me in Monaco, whom I had met when I invited her as a guest author to our school library. Kate Banks was a great encouragement to me in those early months and I continue to read each new book she publishes. It is therefore a pleasure to review her latest picture book as part of by Cybils reviews for 2012. If you would like to know a little more about Kate, do read my interview with her.
By Kate Banks, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben.
Published by Frances Foster Books/ Farrar Strauss Geroux, 2012
Themes: Bears, reading, bedtime, story within story, hibernation.
Reviewed from library copy.
Once there was a book. It was square, with words and colorful pictures. And it lived on a shelf with many other books. It belonged to a little boy and it was his favorite book.
A little boy sits in bed reading a book with his mother. It’s a book about a bear getting ready to hibernate at the beginning of winter and a little boy preparing for bed with his Mom and favorite book. The boy and his mother share the story together, talking about the pictures and the bear’s activity. The bear eats and eats, in preparation for his winter sleep. Finally he curls up tight and falls asleep. The snow arrives, and the little boy can almost feel the wintry cold emanating from the illustrations. He peers with his mother at the pictures and finds hidden animals in the snowy landscape. The snow continues and the boy snuggles in closer, the bear sleeps on. As winter passes, spring approaches, and the bear’s body is preparing to wake, the little boy is beginning to feel dozy and he falls asleep. The parallel of the bear waking from a cozy wintry slumber and the boy snuggling into a nighttime cozy slumber is beautiful.
Why I like this book:
This is a multilayered, heartwarming story in rhythmic, soft prose. It celebrates both the written word and the pictorial art of the picture book. It shares the connection created between caregiver and child when reading a picture book together – the beauty of shared reading. It shows the emotional involvement and reality of experience of a young child in these picture book moments. Just as the boy could feel the winter emanating from the page, the reader can feel the warmth and coziness of this shared nighttime ritual. This is a book-lovers book!. The deep, sensorial, tactile, interactive shared experience of picture book reading, is celebrated in this story.
The boy held the book. he listened to the sound the pages made when he turned them back and forth. ‘shh,’ he said to the sleeping bear.
On a simple level children will love the details of the hidden animals and wintry scenes and the inevitable discussions this story will provoke.
Hallensleben is a regular illustrative partner for Kate Banks and his illustrations have a flowing, merging texture to them. The paintwork is in thick strokes, resulting in rich, warm colors that add warmth to this bedtime moment. The soft, muted water color invite the reader to jump into the pages with all the animals.
This is another real winner from the Banks/Hallensberg partnership!.