Review: A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting


A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting

In his memoir A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson does a bit of research on bears while preparing for his hike along the Appalachian trail:

Black bears rarely attack. But here’s the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn’t happen often, but – and here is the absolutely salient point – once would be enough.

In A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting, Michelle Robinson takes a very tongue-in-cheek look at what to do in the event of such a bear attack. Robinson pokes fun at traditional bear-attack wisdom, looking at the differences between brown bears and black bears, and coming to the conclusion that if you happen to be attacked by a bear, its colour will be the least of your worries!


This is a very funny book, in which the narrator and the protagonist interact with each other, as the narrator helps the over-eager protagonist out of a bear-shaped jam. As the narrator notes, real bears are very different from teddy bears, and while the bears in the story turn out to be suckers for snuggly toys, real bears are nothing to sneeze at.

David Roberts is one of my favourite illustrators at the moment – he’s worked on such hit titles as Iggy Peck, Architect and the other titles in the series, and Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau.


Without giving too much away, though, the last illustration in A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting had both me and my colleague doing a bit of a double take. We had the same reaction when came to it, both turning back to the previous page to figure out the meaning of the illustration. If it means what we think it means, then yikes, this story takes a bit of a dark turn at the end! Talk about a cautionary tale….

Either way,  A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting would make for a great read-aloud, and will likely appeal particularly strongly to the older, school-aged picture book crowd.  Definitely recommended.

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