Denton masterfully mixes watercolor, ink and gouache to contrast Mouse's perky personality and Bear's big, bold gruffness that we have come to love and about which we freely break into gales of laughter. Her single and double page illustrations coupled with vignettes are appropriately placed to draw readers right into the rooms with these utterly charming friends bringing added life to Becker's narration.
Her endpapers have been changing with each of the pictures books; bees, leaves and now the pattern on Bear's blanket. (A Birthday for Bear is a beginning chapter book.) The first pure white page foreshadows an important event in the story picturing a small item; a tea set with cheese and cookies, a book and eyeglasses and one large steaming bowl and spoon next to a tiny steaming bowl and spoon.
Title and publication information spread across two pages drawing the reader immediately into the setting of a pastoral landscape with Bear's narrow two story Tudor-style home. Colors have shifted to signify the changes in time of day or weather: soft hues of autumn on a bright, sunny day, followed by similar shades but the landscape and home are not as distinct awash in the rosiness of sunset and in this newest title we readers are given a closer perception but the sky is cold bathed in tones of blue and it appears to be windy as the trees show movement.
Bear was sick, very, very sick...
In fact, Bear was quite sure no one had ever been as sick as he....
It is the familiar sound of tap, tap, tapping on Bear's front door that opens this new tale. His too cheerful friend, Mouse, enters, bag in hand, assuring him that he'll be fit as a fiddle quickly. Each time he reaches into his bag to pull out an object saying, "I have just the thing.", Bear get crankier and crankier. Not a story, song or tune on a banjo can lift his spirits. Roaring in frustration, weak as a kitten he asks Mouse to take him upstairs to bed. It is this visual with Bear like the proverbial wet noodle slowing shuffling in his green fluffy slippers up the stairs droopy-eyed his one finger gently held by Mouse carefully balancing on the stair rail bag on the step that gives the ultimate interpretation to Becker's text:
And, indeed, Mouse was most helpful.
With Bear nestled in bed, Mouse bustles out bringing back a bowl of his homemade nettle soup. Bear is loathe to admit that he might be feeling better, his irritation is on the rise and he urges Mouse to write his will. Mouse does so, pulling pen and paper from his bag which seems to have a supply of just what is needed when it is needed.
Will Bear recover? On the other hand, we know how quickly germs do spread.
Becker conveys so much with so little. Her use of language is memorable; Bear's over dramatization formally spoken and Mouse's perpetual optimism.
"Stop!" growled Bear. "I fear you do not appreciate the gravity of my situation."
Mouse looked sad, but his tail didn't.
Bonny Becker plus Kady MacDonald Denton equals a splendid humorous telling of the ever-growing companionship of Bear and Mouse. I've been fighting a cold for the past two weeks. Maybe I won't have to make a will. Laughter truly is the best medicine.
In addition to the links to their personal web sites above, Kady MacDonald Denton was interviewed at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Maw Books Blog interviewed Bonny Becker.