Sometimes the strangest pairings work as a grand relationship. And no, I’m not talking about author and illustrator pairings. Here below are some rabbit and bear friendships for you –
Rabbit and Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field
Continuing in the tradition of highly illustrated first chapter books, this is an absolute gem. It looks attractive, reads beautifully, and is downright hilarious – from the rabbit’s expression on the front cover onwards.
Bear is inadvertently woken from her winter hibernation by an intruder. She discovers all her food has been stolen, and that she has woken too early, because it is still snowing. However, she looks on the bright side of life and starts to build a snowman.
Before long her building disturbs Rabbit and in a Bugs Bunnyish pose, he emerges from his hole to remonstrate with her for blocking his sunlight.
Before long the two are gently sparring – the Rabbit in full grumpiness mode, the Bear in Pollyanna-ish optimism. The Rabbit tries to explain gravity to the Bear, calling her an ‘idiot’ with a most supercilious look, explaining that he doesn’t mean ‘friendship’ when he is talking about ‘the force of attraction.’
Of course, that’s the irony of the whole book, which is about the unlikely burgeoning friendship between the two. Before long, Bear witnesses Rabbit’s bad habit (no, not the stealing of food, although Rabbit is revealed as the culprit, but eating his own poo) and Rabbit’s grumpiness turns to embarrassment.
There is so much to adore about this book. There is humour throughout – both in the witty dialogue and in the turn of phrase as the action unfolds. The characters’ interaction is priceless. To add to the fun the blue tonal illustrations are exquisitely funny – it really is like watching a cartoon on the television. From Rabbit’s surly eyebrows, bent ears, downturned mouth to the playfulness in size between Rabbit and Bear – and the wonderful illustrations of food – their hunger for good food, and relish in eating, is palpable.
With allusions to Winnie the Pooh – the map at the beginning highlights a ‘giant sandpit’ and a ‘bear’s cave’ and ‘rabbit’s warren’, as well as Bear’s little(ish) brain:
“Bear was actually a lot cleverer than she thought she was.”
And the introduction of a wolf who is turned off the idea of vegetarianism by a mouldy carrot, this is a book to cherish. One of those that turns children onto reading – with humour, knowledge, fun and perfection in text and illustration. Don’t let this one slip through your fingers – buy it and read it. Again and again. A classic in the making. Age 6+ years. Click the link to buy the book.
Bear in Love by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
More allusions to Winnie the Pooh in this rather whimsical picture book about giving and taking in friendship. Bear finds little treats left for him outside his cave – the first morning a juicy carrot, then many carrots, and before long a flower, and a cookie. He decides to leave gifts in return, including a honeycomb; and lie in wait for his secret admirer. However, being a sleepy bear, he always falls asleep before the mystery guest turns up.
The illustrations are gentle and ambling – the bear is portrayed as a little stupid, and makes up various simple amusing songs as he strolls along in the forest. The beautiful tepid watercolours of the illustrations give a softness to the characters – the bear is seen yawning and with flushed pink cheeks – as well as softly asleep. Indeed, he spends much of the book with his eyes closed. The reveal of the ‘mystery friend’ isn’t shocking for the reader, but is amusing nevertheless – the rabbit’s pink cheeks matching the bear’s, their posture mirroring each other. But it is the delight in food gifts here that will appeal to small children – from the blueberries, to the enjoyment of honey, to the chocolate bar. An easy picture book for age 3+ years. You can buy it here.
Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear by Monica Carnesi
Another rabbit and bear tale, although sadly not widely available in the UK. The two are best friends, and do everything together – supporting each other even when they do something that one can and one can’t – such as swimming. But then Bear hibernates, and although Beatrice the rabbit wants to share in this too, she cannot get to sleep. A wonderful few pages of Beatrice attempting to sleep will draw appreciative nods from insomniacs.
She is devastated that winter will be ruined because she cannot share it with her friend Bear. Her ears flop. Then she decides to document everything she does and prepare a scrapbook for Bear about the winter. She creates The Great Scrapbook of Winter Delights and Adventures For Bear by Beatrice – snow bear snowflakes, ice skating, how to make a bunny angel, and bunny tracks in the snow. The page in the book even looks like a scrapbook. The book deals excellently with the friends’ separation, the illustrations are full colour – dominated by browns, blues and greens. Age 4+ years
Finally, I can’t finish the blog without mentioning one of my favourite picture books about rabbits and bears – I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. There is certainly no friendship in this one – just a thieving rabbit (do I see a pattern emerging?)