Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, February 4, 2019

Bear-y Brave

The receipt of long-awaited good news sends most beings into a state of euphoria.  Usually the elation is far richer and longer-lasting if the message fulfills a life-long dream.  A whole new set of potential scenarios unfolds before the recipient.  All the if-only wishes become what-if opportunities.

Sometimes amid all the jubilation a shift in thinking takes place.  Bearnard's Book (Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, February 5, 2019) written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Misa Saburi allows readers to more fully understand self-doubt and the value of friendship in providing courage.  It's a charming exploration with warm-hearted revelations.

One day, Bearnard received an important letter.

This letter from The Queen of Storybook Land advised him of an amazing situation.  He was asked to be in a book!  He was asked to be at the gate to Storybook Land tomorrow.  To say Bearnard was excited was an understatement.

He could hardly stop thinking about all the children who would read the book with him in it.  As soon as he could he told his best friend, Gertie, a goose, about this marvelous invitation.  The two began to speculate on the kind of story it would be.

Whatever the tale was, Bearnard was determined to be the best.  Gathering other bear books, he tried to emulate the characters.  He tried one, two, three and four times to perform like the other bears.  He couldn't do it.

When Bearnard woke up the next morning he felt like a failure.  He was going to ignore the Queen's request.  When he told Gertie, she pointed out what all his attempts proved.  With his newfound attitude Bearnard and Gertie walked toward a new adventure.  It promised to be the best one yet.

We find ourselves very quickly becoming a part of Bearnard's and Gertie's story when the letter from The Queen of Storybook Land is read.  Through narrative and conversations between Bearnard and Gertie we are a part of the emotional ups and downs this announcement brings to Bearnard.  Author Deborah Underwood involves us further by referring to other famous bear characters.  This also places more emphasis on Bearnard's final realization.  Here is a passage.

He read a book about a bear who floated away in an umbrella.
"Oh, dear.  What if I need to float in my book!" said Bearnard.
"I'm afraid of floating."

He filled up his bathtub to practice.

"What are you doing!" Gertie called.

"Not floating," said Bearnard.

The color palette, cream, rose, light blue, pale golden yellow, lavender, brown, several shades of green and black are introduced to readers on the open dust jacket.  It's intriguing to see the very book we are holding being held by one of the characters.  To the left, on the back, Bearnard in striped pants declares his readiness to be in a book.  He is framed in a circular vine.  He has a single tiny rose blossom (from the front) in one of his paws.  Tiny Bearnard faces wearing different expressions are placed on the spine.  The text and characters are varnished.

A smooth, matte-finished texture is used for the book case (and the interior pages).  On the front of the book case Bearnard is seated and holding Gertie so they are facing each other.  To the left, on the back, holding paw and wing, with their backs to us, they are skipping into an open book.  Gertie is holding a single delicate rose blossom in her free wing.

A shade of olive green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the initial title page, an interior image is placed beneath the text. Bearnard and Gertie are enjoying a picnic.  A small image of a dejected Bearnard is on the verso page opposite the title page with the two friends expressing different emotions at the receipt of the letter.

Rendered in Adobe Photoshop by Misa Saburi the pictures, full of whimsy and cleverness, elevate and complement the story.  Careful readers will notice all the tiny details; the rabbit postman riding a bike and pulling a wagon, the varied wallpapers in different rooms, the rocking horse Bearnard the knight rides, a special bear's suitcase and coat, and the book titles on the window sill in Bearnard's bedroom.  The contrast between the heavier outlines and other delicate elements supplies readers with the signature artwork of Misa Saburi.  The pictures span two pages, full pages or are grouped together on a single page.

One of my many favorite pictures is one of four on a single page.  Gertie is trying to relax Bearnard as they walk to Storybook Gate.  They have stopped and are seated on a dock or bridge.  Gertie is on top of a railing.  Bearnard is leaning over it.  They are watching a small hat-wearing turtle on a rock in the water.  It's a peaceful, loving scene between friends.

Bravery can take many forms and sometimes it takes a friend to show us how courageous we are.  Bearnard's Book written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Misa Saburi shows us how to accept ourselves and the gift of a dream coming true.  Readers will be ready to jump into their own books after reading this title.  You'll want to have a copy on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Deborah Underwood and Misa Saburi and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Both Deborah Underwood and Misa Saburi have accounts on Instagram.  On Twitter you can find Deborah here and Misa here.  Deborah wrote a guest post at the Nerdy Book Club about this book.  To view interior images, visit the publisher's website.  The publisher's have also developed a six page activity kit.

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