cover image Baby Bear's Chairs

Baby Bear's Chairs

Jane Yolen, , illus. by Melissa Sweet. . Harcourt/Gulliver, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205114-3

To a tiny bear, it seems like the world is made for the "great big bears"—like his parents—who survey their domain from "great big chairs." The cub's older brother has it pretty good, too. No high chairs "with straps so/ tiny bears don't fall" for those of his brother's ilk: "middling bears" get to sit in "middling chairs," big enough to serve as pretend pirate ships (and if those middling bears take a tumble from the mast, they get right up again and "never cry"). But while tiny bears may get bossed around a lot and have yet to prepare for that rough-and-tumble life, they do have one advantage: they can "cuddle up/ to take a nap/ upon the chair/ that's Papa's lap." Yolen's (Soft House , reviewed below) empathetic rhyming text infuses the classic preschooler's complaint with touching eloquence; as always, she connects with young readers without pandering to them. Sweet (Carmine: A Little More Red ) makes an ideal visual partner. Her mixed-media illustrations exude a sunny open-heartedness; the slightly naïf style opts for emotional authenticity over realism, but Sweet also includes plenty of domestic details to create a bear household that is both a loving one and also a great setting for a play date. Above all, the pictures assure youngsters that no matter how they may rail against the injustices of being small, there are still many benefits. Ages 2-5. (Oct.)