As I am sure you know, author Karma Wilson began her illustrious picture book writing career with the charming "Bear Snores On". Since this impressive debut, Bear has gone on to appear in further Karma Wilson outings. Yet it all began here, with a tale of hibernation and a friendly hootenanny of wild animals.
A big brown bear, his teapot and other cave utensils strewn hither and yon, is hibernating in the winter. Outside it is blustery and cold but (as we are repeatedly told), "The bear/ snores/ on". One day a timid mouse enters the lair and lights himself a small fire for warmth. No reaction from the snoring bear. Soon a hare joins the mouse and they have a cup of tea. No bearish interruptions. Then there's a badger. Then a mole, and a wren, and a raven, and a gopher. In no time at all a full flown party is in swing, ending when a small fleck of pepper causes the bear to sneeze. Suddenly he's awake and he's angry, but not for the reason you'd think. No, Bear's just upset that everyone had a party without him. But soon, the animals reassure the bear that the party can definitely continue with him, and their host entertains by telling them stories far into the night. By morning everyone is fast asleep. Except (oh irony) the bear.
There's not much to the tale, honestly, but it's not the plot that's important. Ms. Wilson has an ear for delightful cadences and rhyming sequences. Just listen to the following sequence, "An itty-bitty mouse/pitter-pat, tip-toe/creep-crawls in the cave/from the fluff-cold snow". I love how that (and every other) line scans. Accompanying these deft syllables is the art of Jane Chapman. With her guidance, the walls of the cave (illuminated by a crackling fire) glow a homey auburn. Characters are both realistically rendered and adorably fuzzy. I was particularly fond of a scene from out in the blustery snow where, looking into the cave, we see the black silhouettes of the dancing creatures against the yellow glow of the fire. Color and texture are alive and well with this artist, I assure you.
"Bear Snores On" isn't the MOST memorable of picture books, but its pleasant enough. It's perfect for the child that is frightened easily (nothing bad happens, unless you count bear growling at one point) and gentle in its characterizations. All in all, a class act all around. If you need a good bedtime story to tuck the little ones in with, I highly recommend the electric boogaloo that is "Bear Snores On".