April 4, 2012

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

We're Going on a Bear Hunt
By Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
No Illustrator Site
0-4 Preschool Little Simon 36 pp.
978-0689815812 Board Book $7.99

We're Going on a Bear Hunt has enjoyed substantial popularity since its hardcover release in 1989, which explains its board book release. But while the board book features the original hardcover's text and illustrations in their entirety, the presentation that worked with expansive appeal in hardcover feels cramped and cluttered in board book form.

The story itself remains a modern classic for a reason. With the rhythmic refrain, "we're going on a bear hunt. We're going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day. We're not scared," repeated throughout, and plenty of onomatopoeia, the book really is a fun romp through swishy grass, splashy rivers and squelchy mud. But when the gloomy bear cave's resident turns out to be home, the adventurers reverse their tracks in a hurry, squelching through mud, splashing through rivers and swishing though grass all the way home, comically belying their oft repeated assurances that they're "not scared"!

Rosen's use of the there-and-back-again pattern works well in hardcover, bouncing along through unlikely blizzards and scary forests with silliness and ease. But in board book form, the adventure feels overlong despite the wordplay, rhymes and rhythm. Oxenbury's illustrations also suffer for the condensed format - much of their subtle humor is lost or too cluttered to see. We're Going on a Bear Hunt is a favorite for a reason, but perhaps, instead of subjecting board book age babies to a 36 page story, it might be better to save it for slightly older preschool-age age children, or at least for toddlers who can handle traditional hardcover or paperback formats without causing undue destruction.

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