There's heightened excitement when familiar childhood games are played as dusk is spreading throughout a neighborhood. You can hear it in the whoops and laughter of the children. The new lighting changes everyday objects into otherworldly shapes. It's much easier and a whole lot more fun to conceal yourself from others.
In the newest title featuring a loving mother bear and her lovable cub a setting sun signals the start of a new adventure. First introduced to us in Baby Bear Sees Blue (Beach Lane Books, February 7, 2012) and returning in Baby Bear Counts One (Beach Lane Books, September 24, 2013), the duo have returned in WHERE, oh where, is baby bear? (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, October 17, 2017) written and illustrated by the talented author illustrator Ashley Wolff. Playfulness and patience radiate from the pages.
One by one, bats fly out of the deep, dark den.
"Where are they going?" asks Baby Bear.
"They are going to look for food," says Mama Bear.
Baby Bear immediately requests to participate in a nighttime exploration to look for food, too. Mama Bear agrees willingly. As soon as she steps out of the den, Baby Bear is nowhere to be found. She calls for him using the title words. He joyfully replies:
"Here I am, Mama," says Baby Bear.
"Inside the mossy log."
Soon Mama Bear finds tasty berries but when she pauses in her eating Baby Bear has vanished again. When she shouts out the expected phrase, he replies from above her. He has climbed a birch tree and is hanging from a branch.
Mama Bear finds a fresh trout, cool drinking water and delicious dandelion greens. Baby Bear manages to hide in all those places. He cleverly locates himself behind, between and on top of various natural formations.
Finally full of fresh fare, the mother suggests they walk toward home. Their path winds around all the areas they have visited. Back at the den, in a gentle, soothing reversal, Baby Bear has a question. Mama Bear replies with comforting words as old as time.
With every narrative sentence and conversation Ashley Wolff draws readers into the world of Baby Bear and Mama Bear. If we close our eyes, we find each adjective and verb supplies us with a picture of their home and the surrounding landscape. Her word combinations and repetitious phrases create a lullaby, a melody of calls and responses. Along with being introduced to a variety of prepositions we come to understand the typical menu of a foraging adult bear and the places containing those particular items. Here are three more sentences.
Mama Bear chews a mouthful of dandelions.
But when she looks around,
Baby Bear is nowhere in sight.
"Where, oh where, is Baby Bear?" calls Mama.
When looking at the open matching dust jacket and book case, it's easy to see the light-hearted spirit of Baby Bear shining nearly as bright as the full moon behind him. To the left, on the back, Mama Bear, dandelion blossoms and leaves in her mouth, gazes up at Baby Bear with affection. The deep blue sky with the sprinkling of stars makes for a splendid canvas on which to place the bears. The chipmunk is the first of many woodland, pond, river and field creatures who share the night with Baby Bear and Mama Bear. This large image is similar to an interior picture with one discernible difference.
The opening and closing endpapers are a light, bright blue. On the title page an owl flies near the opening of the den. Beneath him a log is partially covered in mushrooms, moss and ferns. A frog watches the bird cautiously.
printing linoleum blocks in black on Arches Cover paper and then hand-colored with watercolor
the illustrations, with the exception of the title and verso/dedication pages, span two pages. (The verso/dedication page is at the end and features the owl again.) Each image reflects the time of day with the hues used in the sky. Exquisite, fine lines supply readers with captivating scenes around the den.
In each picture Ashley Wolff has added flora and fauna appropriate to the habitat. Readers will enjoy looking for the plants and animals as well as catching glimpses of Baby Bear as he hides. A pleasing pacing is generated with changes in point of view. When Mama Bear notices her cub is missing the scene is more panoramic. When she finds him, we are closer to them. In one lovely illustration we are able to see the entire expanse of where they roam during their evening journey.
One of my favorite of many pictures is when Baby Bear is found in the birch tree. The stars are not quite out yet. A hint of golden yellow can be seen along the bottom, left side of the page. On the left Baby Bear is hanging upside down from a birch branch looking over his shoulders at Mama Bear. On the right she is looking up at him. Smaller branches covered with birch leaves frame the bears and balance the design on the top of the right side.
To have this book, WHERE, oh where, is baby bear?, written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, released this fall is like getting an early Christmas present. It was at the end of my post on the second title that I wished for another Baby Bear and Mama Bear adventure. Each book is as endearing as its predecessor. Each one reaches out to readers enveloping them in warmth and, without them knowing it, teaching them new concepts. You need to have this title on both your professional and personal bookshelves.
To learn more about Ashley Wolff and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. You really need to visit her blog here to enjoy a full range of artwork. At the publisher's website you can enjoy interior images.