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!

Rec N Reading Week One – “Into the Wild”

Many researchers and educators agree that reading is the single summer activity most strongly and consistently related to achievement gains. Children who begin to develop literacy skills in Grade 1 can regress over the summer months without consistent and continuous reading instruction.

Rec N’ Reading is an early intervention literacy program for children at-risk in their reading development that balances literacy instruction with recreational activities.  Students are referred to the program by their Grade 1 teachers after they were found to be reading below grade level in the Developmental Reading Assessment test (DRA). – Vancouver School Board

For three weeks, 24 children will be attending weekly events at the library as part of Rec and Reading, a summer enrichment program for at-risk youngsters going into grade 2. The program intends to support literacy development in a fun, positive environment.

Each week has a theme, which is reflected in the stories and activities we share at the library. This week’s theme was “Into the Wild”.

We started with a hello song (“hello, friends), then read a story – “What to Do if an Elephant Stands on Your Foot” by Michelle Robinson.


This is a pretty hilarious story about what not to do in the jungle, and the kids really enjoyed its madcap sense of humour (“you ninny!”)

After the story it was time for a game! We did a brief tour of the library, followed by an animal-themed scavenger hunt. I taped different animal pictures around the library, and the children had to find them and record where they found them in the chart.

Library Scavenger Hunt-page-001

Following the scavenger hunt there was time for book exchange, and then it was time to go back to school.

What I learned: 24 seven-year-olds in a small children’s area = barely controlled chaos…. The kids had a blast, but there were more than a few disgruntled adult patrons who weren’t too thrilled with the exuberant scavengers scurrying around the library. I had been under the impression that there would be more supervisors coming with the group, but most of those supervisors turned out to be well-meaning but largely ineffective teenage volunteers, which meant I ended up doing most of the child wrangling myself.

Next week we’re going to spend most of the 1.5 hour program in the meeting room doing a craft activity, then venture into the library to do our book exchange. Since we have a large meeting room available, I’m going to try and take advantage of it to keep the kids somewhat contained!

Next week – “Outer Space”!