Book Review: No Bears

Author: Meg McKinlay
Illustrator: Leila Rudge
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (March 27, 2012)
Audience: Ages 4 and up
Source: Personal Copy
Fiction * Fairy Tale * Writing

Description from Publisher's Page:
Ella wants to tell you a story - a story with absolutely no bears. You don't need bears for a book. You need pretty things like fairies and princesses and castles and maybe funny things and exciting things. In Ella's kind of story, there are no bears in the village or the castle or the deep dark forest or faraway lands. But there might be . . . a monster! Riffing on well-known fairy-tale themes, this fun, offbeat story is perfectly matched by playful illustrations with a running visual joke that will keep even bear lovers smiling. 

Ella is in charge of this book, and she will tell you something right now. There are NO BEARS in it. Not even one.

My thoughts on this book:
I read a lot of picture books.  It is easy to forget books when you are reading that many.  And then, there are some that just keep coming to mind.  No Bears was that book for me.  I read it and really liked it.  Then I wanted to go back and read it again and again.  Of course, at that point the bookstore didn't have it and it was on back order with the publisher. Finally, I was able to lay my hands on my own copy of the book and have probably read it another 7 or 8 times. Enjoying it each and every time I read it.

Bear Book Recycling Bin - love it!
Part of what I love about No Bears is that with every reading, I come away with some new thoughts and ideas about the story.  No Bears is a brilliant concept that is very well executed.  The text stands as strong as the illustrations to provide readers with truly a wonderful book.

Ella wants to write a story and she knows that the story should start with things like "Once upon a time.." and end with things like "Happily ever after" and "The End".  On the one hand, as a teacher, I can use this story as a read aloud for younger students but on the other hand, I can utilize the story as a way to discuss metafiction and writing with older students.  Ella's interjections into the story throughout the book provide a level of narration for students that allow them to consider the various aspects to be considered in writing a story.    

In the illustration below, Ella lists all of the things that her story should have. Rudge takes McKinlay's words to a new level though by also incorporating various references to other fairy tales with her images.  Rudge does this successfully throughout the whole book.  Of course, as Ella talks about all the things her book should have and what it shouldn't have - bears - Bear is lurking on the sidelines watching the story unfold.

Just as in any good story, there has to be trouble...unfolding on the page is a deep, dark forest -

because you must have a deep, dark forest in your story and not to forget - you must also have a MONSTER.  However, I love that our bear friend is silently helping out in the background.

 Bear is helping out so much that when the princess (as represented by Ella) is in trouble he is there with the fairy godmother's magic wand to help save the day.   Even though Ella credits the fairy godmother and "her fantastical magic powers" for the rescue the reader knows better.

In the end, Ella is proud of her "bear free" book and Bear is left to explain to all of the other characters in the book how he indeed saved the day. 

In addition, to all of the wonderful aspects already talked about, the illustrations provide a fun challenge for students to see if they can identify all of the references to fairy tales that are embedded onto the pages of the story. 

McKinlay and Rudge certainly have a hit on their hands with No Bears. This is definitely one book that I would recommend for storytime, classroom instruction or just as a fun gift for a favorite young person in your life.

Find the author & illustrator on the internet:
Meg McKinlay: Website | Blog
Leila Rudge: Website | Blog

Credit & Disclaimer: All illustrations in this post are ©Leilarudge - The illustrations were so fabulous I had to share.