~by Amanda Smith
I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK, by Tara Lazar (Aladdin/ S&S, 2015) is a fractured fairy tale in which Prince Zilch, an alien from Planet Zero, tumbles from his own book into the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Prince Zilch is in a hurry to return to his book, and the grown-up bears are all too eager to help him along so they can get on with their blueberry picking (“We really cannot eat porridge again.”) Hilarious onomatopoeic solutions ensue, with increasingly disastrous but side-splitting results. Finally, it is Baby Bear who comes up with an unexpected solution while the adults are snoozing.
Benji Davies’ colorful illustrations are dynamic. From the pink smoke puff swirl on the title page, to the whooshing catapult, to Mama Bear hanging from a tree branch the illustrations provide movement that makes this picture book feel like a cinematic experience. Each page is brimming with snigger-inducing details and the bears’ facial expressions are a hoot.
Add to the illustrations Tara’s comedic style, smart word play and party on your tongue vocabulary and you and your kids are in for an uproarious story time.
In this book, Ms. Lazar plays with a lot of different techniques. She breaks the fourth wall early on, which makes the ending believable. She calls on her readership to participate, making the book interactive. However, for me the most successful technique is the use of speech bubbles as I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK is completely written in dialogue. This makes for wonderful read-together moments.
Sometimes I shy away from these types of books for read-aloud as it is harder for kids to follow who is speaking. Not so with this book. Ms. Lazar has written each character’s dialogue so distinct from the others they sound completely different even if you don’t add funny voices. Prince Zilch is all about urgency and exclamation points! Mama Bear is honey sweet, though a bit dense, Goldilocks is pure snark and Baby Bear… Baby Bear is a little voice with big ideas who just wants to be heard. And that is something with which all Ms. Lazar’s young readers can identify.
Click here to read our interview with Tara Lazar.
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