You’re going to like this one. Well, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to like this one. The bear? He has lost his hat. He is forlorn, bereft, anxious. Look at that sad face! None of the other animals seem to have seen his hat. He begins to sink into a depression when, all of a sudden, he belatedly realizes he saw his hat on the head of a rabbit, who in retrospect was a pretty shifty character. After a brief stare-down, we see the bear with his hat, and we are left to our own conclusions about the fate of the rabbit. Kind of. We’re pretty sure the bear ate him. Yay!
I was told that Klassen had a hard time finding a publisher for this wonderful book. All the publishers wanted him to change the ending, which would have been just wrong. Children will feel a sense of righteous justice in the bear’s response. And no, it’s not going to teach kids that violence solves disputes. Rather, it reflects how children feel inside when someone takes their stuff, and it’s incredibly validating for children to see their feelings put down on paper. Likewise, children will empathize with the bear’s experience of having a problem that no one seems to be able to help with.
As, frankly, will adults. You know when someone acts like a jerk, and ten minutes later you think of just what you should have said or done? That’s the satisfyiing feeling you get at the end of this book.
Also, the ink drawings are simple and earthy and compelling, and there’s a surprise moment in the middle of the book that made me laugh out loud the first time I read it. You won’t get bored with this book, and neither will children. When you read it, you’ll probably want to have a conversation with children about what you do when you’re mad at someone. But resist the temptation to moralize or condemn the bear’s actions. The kids already know they’re not supposed to eat people when they get mad. Let them enjoy the fantasy.