Given its subject, it makes sense that my first children's book review would be for "Thank You Bear", the minimalist, yet wonderfully meaningful book by Greg Foley. I can talk about this simple little kid's book in countless contexts. You can too with your child. I imagine that this book will have a life well after my son's early years.
The illustrations are largely scaled on bright white pages and drawn with simple outlines. I don't know for certain, but given the palette and style, I can guess these great dark outlines are loosely filled in with Prismacolor markers. No staying inside the line adhered to here, or having to fill right to it. On every left page you find the text, and on the right, its corresponding illustration. This gives the book great rhythm.
The story chronicles the main character, Bear, showing a small box to several animals he knows. The book's introductory line states: "For anyone who ever thought they had something great". I like how this book can be about different perspectives on the value of things. But on a deeper level, this book is really about ideas, one of which Bear believes is the greatest thing ever!
Bear knows that his friend, Mouse, will love this little box too. Each character he goes on to encounter before reaching Mouse represents all the common idea blockers we face. The animals used also correspond to attitudes by others or even ones we might impose on ourselves. The cranky Monkey is too negative himself to give it value. The wise Owl doesn't think the idea is that original, seeing that he's been around for a while. The Fox, without having spent much time with it, and thinking himself to be smarter, quickly thinks Bear is doing it incorrectly. Poor Elephant is just not a fit for it. And then there are those who just want to take your ideas for themselves, like a sneaky Squirrel taking your acorn. Some people are too busy and live life too bunny-fast to talk ideas and that's when we really start doubting ourselves. Luckily, there is Mouse.
All these attitudes are also shown clearly through the expression in the animal's faces. I like to give voices that correspond, like a snooty voice to the owl and an impatient one to the fox. My son loves this. By the time I'm spitting out the busy bunny's line a mile a minute, he's cracking up. Something to notice is how every time Bear shows his box to the different animals he is looking intently and sometimes doubtful at their faces, as if waiting for that connection that comes with sharing a thought. Meanwhile all the animals just look at his box and not at his face while dismissing it.
But when the box is shown to Mouse, and he finds it to be the greatest thing ever too, Mouse looks at Bear happily. There is always someone that has use and appreciation for what you can offer. A perfect fit, a perfect match! And feeling appreciated is a wonderful thing, as the last picture of Bear clearly shows.
This blog is one of my many ideas. I hope it finds a Mouse of its own.