Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, February 9, 2022


Humans are not as quick to receive someone as their canine counterparts.  Dogs, regardless of your physical characteristics, readily give you their unconditional love.  Their loyalty is humbling in its purity.  Whether you are courageous or cautious, or aloof or friendly, or carefree or worried, their understanding of you, your flaws and strengths, is remarkable.  If you are fortunate enough to have a friend who views you in this manner, it is a cherished gift.

As someone who is shy, being among others, especially large groups, professionally or personally, is challenging.  It is not easy to join in small talk, offer comments in discussions, or provide answers to questions, even if you have correct responses.  You prefer to be an observer.  You prefer to blend rather than engage.  In Where Is Bina Bear? (GodwinBooks, Henry Holt and Company, January 11, 2022) written and illustrated by Mike Curato, readers are invited to a party.  One of the guests is most bashful, but has the best kind of friend, a cherished gift.

Tiny was having a big party.
But where was Bina Bear?

Bina Bear was hiding in the dark.  Bina Bear was trying to blend in with the wallpaper.  Bina Bear believed standing still with a lampshade on your head turned you into a lamp.  It was a good plan for concealment. 

When Tiny, a small rabbit and Bina's friend, asked if the object was Bina, a voice replied it was a lamp.  Bina next arranged to be a large table with a bowl of fruit resting on it.  The table graciously allowed Tiny to take a banana.

As Tiny moved outside and then back inside, each encounter with Bina Bear presented a new object which freely spoke with Tiny, but denied being Bina Bear.  Tiny voiced missing Bina Bear.  Wherever Bina Bear went and whatever she became, Tiny was there.

When Tiny asked if Bina Bear was all right, the bear said yes.  Bina Bear was not okay.  Through a compassionate conversation, Tiny realized what Bina Bear needed most.  Two hearts shined as one.

Spare, intentional text with specific word choices by author Mike Curato evoke an emotional response in readers.  Dialogue between Bina Bear and Tiny establishes their affectionate relationship.  The questions and answers further our comprehension of their bond. The decision to use fewer words leaves room for the artwork to elevate the story.  Here is a passage.

Excuse me, have you ---


Oh, okay.

Sigh . . . 

"nom nom nom" 

Do you want
some banana,


One of the first things you notice about the open dust jacket is the color palette.  The bright yellow as a background on the front and back sings out hello.  The complementary hues used with the yellow heighten the greeting.  The cones of light above and below Bina Bear draw our eyes to the title text and to Bina Bear and Tiny.  The text, Bina Bear, and Tiny are varnished on the front.

To the left of the spine are three of the forms Bina Bear assumes to hide.  She is a table in the living room, a tree in the yard, and a chair.  The accompanying text contrasts with what readers can see.  Bina Bear and Tiny in these three scenes are varnished.

On either side of a yellow spine, the book case is purple.  It is Bina Bear.  All we can see of her is her eyes and nose enlarged on the front of the case.

The opening and closing endpapers are the same bright yellow.  On the title page is a full-page picture.  It is a party setting.  Balloons from the refreshment table are used to spell out Bina Bear in the title.  Bina Bear is peeking from the outside through an open door in the background.  Tiny is chatting with a squirrel.  Careful readers will notice a familiar character, trunk raised, near a plate of cupcakes.  The dog, Spot, is under the table, tongue out waiting for crumbs.  

These illustrations were rendered using

ink, colored pencil, watercolor, and digital.

The size of the visuals vary in accordance with the narrative. There are single-page images, two-page illustrations, two horizontal panels, top and bottom, across two pages, and two, three, and four images on a single page.  There are several dramatic wordless double-page pictures.  All the artwork is loosely framed.  The perspectives vary with the image sizes.  What artist Mike Curato conveys with his eyes alone is marvelous.

One of my many favorite illustratons spans two pages and is wordless.  We are inside a formal library.  The walls are papered in a fern design.  Ornate white bookcases line the walls on the left.  Between two of those bookcases is a Bina Bear bookcase.  Her arms and legs are arranged like shelves to hold books.  To the right of the gutter, French doors, now closed, open into the party.  On the far right, a plant hangs from the ceiling near a pink and green chair.  On the wood floor, stained pale pink, sits Tiny on a green pillow.  She is reading a book as big as she is.  One of her eyes is watching Bina Bear watch her.

This book, Where Is Bina Bear? written and illustrated by Mike Curato is for all those shy people to know they are seen.  It will build empathy in all those people who are not shy.  Readers will find a special place in their hearts for this bear and her rabbit friend.  I know you will want a copy of this title for all your collections, personal and professional.

For those desiring to learn more about Mike Curato and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Mike Curato has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Mike Curato speaks further about his book on this additional site of his.  Mike Curato, this title and his artwork are featured by author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson on her site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  You can view interior images at the publisher's website.

Where Is Bina Bear? by Mike Curato from Let's Talk Picture Books on Vimeo.

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