Review Blog

Mar 07 2016

Bear make den by Jane Godwin and Michael Wagner

cover image

Ill. by Andrew Joyner. Allen and Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781760110017
(Ages: 3-6) Recommended. Andrew Joyner's superb illustrations make this immediately appealing and the story does not disappoint. The bear on the cover immediately comes across as loveable and hardworking, depicted working away in his blue overalls with a satisfied grin. He sure is a competent DIY bear - painting, sewing, building, baking, he can do it all. The country feel of the book, owing to the red and white check cloth of the spine, the forest setting and the simplistic 'caveman' language used throughout the book ('Bear make den, den good, den done') works perfectly with this gentle, simple story. It all starts with bear reading a book called 'How Make Den'. He finds a cave, shovels out some dirt and is pretty satisfied . . . until he realises he is sitting on the ground! 'Den not done.' So he constructs a table and some chairs out of a log. Again, he is chuffed until he realises the dining chairs are uncomfortable for sleeping on. And so it continues . . . .a bed, a lamp, an oven, a game to play, art, and finally . . . friends! At its heart, this is a simple and fun story about what truly makes a house a home. The whole story is leading up to this as bear makes a bunk bed, a two seater couch with lamps on either side, two dining chairs, a huge cake too big for one, a chess game for two, etc.
The simplistic language is perfect; it sets the speed of the book as bear quickly works to build things for his den and is all that is required to tell the story. In fact, you could just as easily read the story from the pictures alone, as bear's mannerisms and facial expressions perfectly portray what he is thinking and feeling. This is perfect for sharing and independent reading. Children will also love guessing what bear is going to do next.
Nicole Nelson

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