Bear-ly There

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Bear-ly There is a Moonbeam Award-winning book by Maine children’s author and illustrator Rebekah Raye. In this book, Raye deftly blends rich, informative text on black bears with vibrant, detailed illustrations.

Bear-ly There begins in the spring as the sun is “melting patches of crusty snow on the hillside,” and a bear is coming out of hibernation. The full-page illustration accompanying this first page shows the friendly face of a huge black bear. The bear pulls himself out of his den and promptly treats himself to an obviously satisfying back scratch that “also left his scent to tell other bears he was there.” He continues on in search of food, at which point readers are treated to a picture of a very happy bear lapping army cutworms off a dead log. Unfortunately, with his excellent sense of smell, the bear is drawn out of the woods by the aroma of grain and bird seed stored in a family’s shed.

Young Charlie is awakened that night by the sounds of the bear breaking into his family’s grain shed. Movement in the house frightens the bear back into the woods and Charlie finds out the next day that it has been visiting the neighborhood bird feeders and compost piles. Neighbors don’t know what to do and some talk of shooting the bear. Charlie does research to learn how to keep the bear away from people and in the woods – from safely storing grain, birdseed, and garbage, to cleaning barbecue grills after use.

Charlie’s family moves the grain into the cellar and makes a plan in the event the bear comes back. The bear does return to the storage shed, but is successfully frightened away by the clanging of Charlie’s cymbals, the banging of mom’s pots, and the blare of dad’s air horn. Later that summer while the family is blueberry picking, they catch one last glimpse of the bear as he is enjoying some blueberries. The scent of the humans quickly drives the bear back into the forest.

Raye’s illustrations always portray the bear as a huge but friendly looking creature. This book would be suitable as a read-aloud for children ages four and older.

Lorraine Ravis