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.

#IMWAYR – July 25, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

I’ve got another great selection of picture book reviews coming up on the blog this week:

Zak’s Safari

A very sweet where-did-I-come-from? picture book about a donor-conceived child in a same-sex family.

Bears in a Band 

Cute! So cute! Look at those bears! Cuteness levels at maximum!!

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting

A hilarious tongue-in-cheek story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but has a bit of a surprising edge.

Tulip Fever

My library had a sidewalk book sale recently, and I kind of made off like a bandit – $0.50 per book, how could I possible resist?!? You’ll probably be seeing a few of the (many….) purchases I made at the sale on the blog in the coming weeks.

As for Tulip Fever, I’d heard that it was being made into a film, and I read a lot of historical fiction, so I was intrigued. It tells the story of a wealthy merchant, his much younger wife, and the handsome painter she falls in love with. It’s a quick read, and I have to agree with the very mixed reviews it’s received on Amazon. It’s not a bad novel, and I breezed through it pretty quickly, but it didn’t really wow me in any way. The characters are pretty standard, and I’m not a big fan of insta-love, which these characters experience in an almost laughable way. There’s a review on Amazon that pretty much sums up my feelings exactly – “Because this novel is plot led, it is easy to get the story simply by reading three words on every page.” It’s not terrible read, and it’s very quick to flip through, but I’ve read better. I would definitely recommend borrowing it from the library if you’re interested (or buying it for $.50) rather than buying it, as I don’t think it’s worth a full-price purchase.

That’s it for now, hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend, and check back in for picture book reviews throughout the week!

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? December 14, 2015

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? was initiated by Sheila at Book Journey, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus – perfect for a children’s librarian like me. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.



Title: Red & Yellow’s Noisy Night
Author: Josh Selig Illustrator: Little Airplane Productions
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book
Publisher’s Summary: “I believe that The Olive Branch can help make a real difference in our world.”–Archbishop Desmond Tutu 

Red and Yellow live together in the branches of an olive tree–but these two friends are as different as can be, and sometimes have trouble co-existing peacefully. Red wants to play loudly on his strummy, while Yellow longs for sleep. This adorable bedtime story about tolerance and conflict resolution is based on an animated TV show that currently airs on over 100 channels around the world.

My Two CentsI really didn’t expect to like this book. It’s an adaptation of a cartoon show that I’ve never heard of, and it’s all about “tolerance and conflict resolution”, which sounds either gag-inducing or snooze-worthy (I prefer picture books that impart their messages with a subtle hand,  and don’t hit children over the head with overt morals).

I actually found this book downright adorable. The illustrations aren’t too slick or computer-generated, and actually have a bit of hand-drawn charm. Red and Yellow are utterly charming, and have a bit of an Elephant and Piggie, or even Laurel and Hardy vibe, with a zany little character (Red), and a larger, more deadpan character (Yellow). I’ll admit it, I found Red’s “strummy” too cute for words – from now on, I’ll be referring to my ukulele as a strummy.

The two characters come to a mutually-beneficial compromise in which Red gets to play his strummy, and Yellow gets to sleep. Despite the creators’ rather intense-sounding mission to “create original media that helps children around the world learn about conflict resolution and mutual respect, “Red & Yellow’s Noisy Night” is nowhere near as preachy or saccharine as I had feared it would be. Instead, it’s a simple, quite charming little story about two friends finding a way to get along.


Title: Those Magnificent Sheep in Their Flying Machines
Author: Peter Bently / Illustrator: David Roberts
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd.
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book
Publisher’s Summary: The sheep on the hillside were munching away, much as they always did, day after day, when suddenly something went ZOOM overhead! “Let’s go and see what it is!” they all said. And so begins a ripping, round-the-world adventure as the magnificent sheep take to skies in their spiffing, yellow flying machine…

My Two CentsLove it!! This ridiculous picture book about a group of sheep who go on a joyride in an airplane is a joyous adventure with a distinctly British flavour. The title, setting and style of the illustrations are a cheeky take on the 1965 British comedy film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines; Or, How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes. 

The motley collection of sheep embark on an adventure around the world in their purloined plane, escaping all sorts of dangers, like hungry crocodiles and a mutton curry-loving Maharaja, before realizing that home is where they really want to be.

Some of the humour in this picture book will likely fly over the heads of most little readers (pun somewhat intended), but adults will likely have a chuckle, and the zaniness of the premise is likely to appeal to kids (there’s nothing quite like animals committing crimes – think Moo!)

 Now, tell me, what have you been reading this week?