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Sunday, January 14, 2018

‘Big Bear, Small Mouse’ Teaches Kids Comparisons

Big Bear, Small Mouse
Written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman
Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2016

              “Big Bear, Small Mouse,” the latest in Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s Bear series, is a warm, cheerful simple story of animal friends gathering in Bear’s lair to stay warm and enjoy time together.

              Told in an easy pattern, the story teaches children comparison words, such as big and small, slow and fast, and low and high.

              ‘Mouse hops onto Bear
              He is careful not to fall.
              Bear is big, big BIG!
              Mouse is small, small, small!

It is a cumulative narrative, beginning with bear and mouse, and growing as new pairs of animals join the group. Each pair is described using a pair of opposite adjectives.  

‘Bear and Mouse both wave
to their friends as they go past.  
Badger moseys slowly,
but Hare runs very fast!

Rhyme is used effectively in an A-B, C-B pattern with four-line, three-foot stanzas.

Each time a new pair of animals joins the group, they are added to the list. So, it begins,

Small Mouse
big Bear.’

The list grows.

Slow Badger, fast Hare.
Small Mouse, big Bear!’

And grows.

High Owl, low Wren.
Slow Badger, fast Hare.
Small Mouse, big Bear!’

Until finally, it is six lines long, with a rhyming pattern of A-A, B-B, C-C. 

‘All together, gathered there,
Cold night, warm lair.
Quiet woods, loud friends.
High Owl, low Wren.
Slow Badger, fast Hare.
Small Mouse, BIG BEAR!’

The growing list builds momentum, until the story ends with Bear smiling and clapping, surrounded by his friends in his lair that is decorated with strings of daisies.

The colorful, expressive pictures of the animals complement the story, and tell a few new details of their own. Mouse tickles Bear with a feather, Badger wears a necklace of daisies, a bird gives Badger another daisy, and Badger shares his necklace with Mole.

One small criticism is the overuse of exclamation marks, a lazy man’s way of expressing emotion. This story could have let the words and pictures do that without resorting to them.   

About the Author 

Karma Wilson is the bestselling author of several picture books for Simon @ Schuster, including the Bear series and “Where Is Home Little Pig? Karma lives in Montana.

About the Illustrator

Jane Chapman is an illustrator of over one hundred books for children, including “Dilly Duckling,” by Claire Freedman and “I Love My Mama” by Peter Kavanagh, as well as Karma Wilson’s “Bear Snores On,” “Bear Wants More,” “Bear Stays Up for Christmas,” and “Mortimer’s Christmas Manger.” She lives with her family in Dorset, England. Visit Jane at  

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