Bear Snores On

   I believe our lives can be summed up by decisions made on only a handful of days.  One small step or a swivel of the neck wields the power to change the trajectory of an entire lifetime.  The first time I read Bear Snores On, written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman, my life was changed forever.  I fell for this slumbering, grumbling bear in an instant.  And as each creature found its way into Bear's cave, seeking shelter from the night's storm, my heart went pitter-pat.  Bear Snores On became my first true love in the wide world of children's literature (in adulthood).   Prior to poring over this spirited tale, I knew I possessed a leaning towards them and I certainly had my favorites as a child (But No Elephants, Henry's Awful Mistake, The Secret Garden, Little Women), but only after experiencing Bear Snores On did I feel compelled to write my own children's books.  I choose this day of love, Valentine's Day, to share our newest Blueberry Book with you and to celebrate our very first giveaway on what is also International Book Giving Day!

The Story

   The soft snow and mysterious hideaway on the first page drew me in...
In a cave in the woods,
in his deep, dark lair,
through a long, cold winter,
sleeps a great brown bear.

   One by one, each of bear's friends "creep-crawl in the cave from the fluff-cold snow" and breathe life and laughter into Bear's dark, clammy corner of the the forest.  Karma Wilson's sweet concoction of words transports me.  "The coals pip-pop and the wind doesn't stop."  I feel my frigid fingers thaw by the fire and the warmth of the black tea and stew travels down to my tummy.  The company of woodland friends, stirring and seasoning, chatting and cluttering, makes my heart as bright as the sun despite the frozen fury whirling outside. 

   Before a gopher, mole, wren, and raven join the party, Hare, Badger, and Mouse sit down to some "yummy-yums" and "honey-huts" on one of the most precious of pages.

   And they nibble and they munch with a
                the bear
                                snores on.

   Dormant and docile, the hibernating bear has been snoozing while everyone else celebrates.  My absolute favorite scene in Bear Snores On is below.

artwork by Jane Chapman

   Surely all the ruckus would wake the great brown bear, right?  But what would happen when he does rise?  Would he growl and grumble?  Would be teeter and stumble?  Would he moan and groan? And how will his friends react?  You'll have to grab a copy and see for yourself!  Rest assured though, my daughters and I absolutely adore the twists and turns at the end!

The Storytellers

   The whimsical yet exacting rythym and rhyme in Bear Snores On made me wonder how long it takes to create an unblemished work.  When asked, "How long does it take to write a book?" in the FAQs section of her website, Karma explains, "There is no real answer to this question. I have one book that took an afternoon to write. I had another that took over two years! The amount of time a book takes to write from the moment it enters my head until it is through the final edits varies from book to book. I would say the average is one month."

     Karma found solice in reading and the outdoors growing up as the only child of a single mother "in the wilds of Idaho."  According to her bio, "She was even known to try to read while riding her bike down dirt roads, which she does not recommend as it is hazardous to the general well being of the bike, the rider, and more importantly the book."  At twenty seven years old as a wife and mother of three small children, Karma began her arduous journey to become an award-winning published author of over thirty books.  A tax refund turned into an investment as a home computer.  "Combining her desire to make the expensive computer pay for itself, her newfound typing skill, and her love of children’s literature, Karma started writing for children. ... Countless rejections and three years later Karma was finally accepted by book agent Steven Malk (who had already rejected her once, which she never lets him forget). Her first book, Bear Snores On, was released in 2002. The computer was paid for!"

   What you may or may not know about the production of children's books is once the type is sent off an illustrator is allowed to create whatever he/she chooses! There is almost no communication between the author and illustrator during the picture phase of the book.  In fact, it is widely prohibited as to preserve the imagination of the artist.  In an interview with Joanna Marple, the illustrator of Bear Snores On, Jane Chapman, speaks of her relationship with Karma, "She is a great author to work with because once the text has left her very capable hand, I’m allowed to do pretty much whatever I want. I’ve read her descriptions of Bear and his friends on her website, but they are completely different to the characters I have in my head. It’s very interesting!"

   The culmination of her acrylic strokes of genius will enliven your senses.  The stillness of the winter shifts to a swirling storm with a tilt of her brush.  The blue kettle balanced on a couple of sticks and hovering over the most delightful of campfires makes you want to pull up a patch of dirt to slurp, and even burp, with Hare and Mouse.  And from Gopher's trail of crumbs to Hare's wince while he crunches honey-huts, you will fall in love with each and every character!

The Review

   My daughters first enjoyed this book at 1 and 3 years old.  We have read Bear Snores On and all other books from the Bear series over and over again!  Not only do they learn about a bear's habitat, its hibernation process, and the four seasons throughout the series, but also Bear and his forest friends send a wonderful message of friendship, sharing, and teamwork in each and every story!  Bear Snores On (suggested  ages 2+) is the recipient of countless awards, has graced both the New York Times and Publishers Weekly Bestseller lists, and now has earned a perfect 5 out of 5 blueberries as our 14th Blueberry Book!  To purchase this book click here!  To view a complete list of the entire series click here!

The Classroom

   If you are looking for an activity to enliven the little minds in your life, Karma offers up some great ideas here!  These two are my favorite:

Imaginary Potluck: If you think about it the whole book Bear Snores On is an impromptu potluck! I love potlucks so maybe that was a subconscious theme. For a fun activity have an “imaginary” potluck. Give each child a paper plate and pass around some food magazines. Let each child cut out the foods they would bring to a “potluck” and glue it to the plate. Select a spot in the classroom for the “potluck” party and have the children come with their dishes and put them on the table. Then let the pretending begin! For Bear Wants More you can do the same basic activity but make it a planned surprise party instead.

Bear Party Food: For Bear Wants More or Bear Snores On pass out small bags of popcorn, honey nut cheerios, and apple cider pretend "black tea". For Bear Wants More use strawberries, shamrock shaped cookies, goldfish snack crackers and top it all off with honey buns (Little Debbie makes an inexpensive variety).

   For a writer's prompt for the classroom, a brainstorming lesson, or to use simply as a coloring sheet, click here for a wonderful bear doodle turned dream cloud from Jane Chapman!

The Giveaway

***This giveaway ended February 23, 2013. 
Add yourself to our email list for future givewaways!***

   While Valentine's Day could be perceived as another pitfall into American consumerism, the spirit of the holiday as a child, of spreading love to all your friends in the form of paper valentines stuffed with yummy treats, should be preserved and celebrated!  Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog, it is Valentine's Day, and it is International Book Giving Day!  I'd say this calls for our very first giveaway!  To ensure an opportunity for Bear to rush into your hearts like he did ours and hopefully instill a love of reading early in your little one's lives, and as a thank you for your outpouring of support this past year, I'm giving away a four pack of Bear's board books!!  Included in the prize will be the following four titles: Bear Snores On, Bear's New Friend, Bear Feels Scared, and Bear Feels Sick (a $20 value)!

   To enter to win the set of board books, you can do one (or both) of the following and a winner will be selected at random on February 23rd:

  1. Enter your email address in the little white box near the top of this blog!  [At this time you will only receive one email each time I publish a new blog post.]  After you have confirmed your follow by email, comment on this post below [with your name so I can find you if you win] and let me know you entered!
  2. 'Like' us on facebook [www.facebook.com/islabooks] if you haven't already done so, share a giveaway link from our facebook page, and comment on which giveaway link you shared! 

   This four pack of board books would make a great baby shower or birthday gift!  Or, you can keep it for yourself and read them to your littles over and over like we do with ours.  Thank you so much for stopping by.  Good luck!  And Happy Valentine's Day!  We hope you feel the love from our home to yours!