Baby Bear

by Kadir Nelson (Author) Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)

Baby Bear
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
As Baby Bear tries to find his way home through the forest, he asks many different woodland creatures for help and finds that much of their advice is more comforting than helpful.
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Publishers Weekly

Nelson (Nelson Mandela) builds his tale on the simplest bedtime-story scaffolding: a bear cub loses its way home and asks other forest animals for help. What distinguishes Nelson's creation is an atmosphere of loving-kindness and the affirmation of Baby Bear's ability to make the journey alone. Even animals that appear intimidating (a mountain lion, a moose) offer reassurance. These nighttime encounters unfold against a background of rich cobalt blue, bathed in the orange light of the full moon. "You are not alone, Baby Bear," says an owl in a tree. "I am here with you. You only need look up and keep going." Softly brushed oil paintings convey intimacy by getting right up close. One spread zeroes in on Baby Bear's moist black nose, the moon reflected in its shining eyes. In another sweet-tempered scene, a salmon leads Baby Bear home ("If you promise not to eat me, I will show you the way"), the fish swishing through the water while Baby Bear paddles behind. It's easy to imagine the tension leaving anxious bed-goers as they realize that Baby Bear is always safe. Ages 4-8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Jan.)

Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 1--A glorious full moon illuminates a blue-black wilderness as a scared and lost Baby Bear seeks his way home. He deferentially asks various animals for help. Each creature offers a different suggestion on how to find his home. Some of the advice is practical as Mountain Lion tells him to "retrace your steps," some of it is silly as the squirrels suggest that he "hug a tree," and some is just cliched as Moose says, "listen to [your] heart. It speaks as softly and sweetly as a gentle breeze. And it is never wrong." Salmon is the last one to help Baby Bear, swimming with the cub and then instructing him to climb up and see his home at last. Relieved, the little bear beholds a splendid sunrise over the river valley, the same view as depicted in the front endpapers of the book, but now bathed in light. Most young children equate "home" with "family," and the fact that no other bears appear is disconcerting. Nelson's luscious oils on canvas are as breathtaking as ever, and his superb, almost life-sized, depictions of these creatures in their natural environment hold a wonder of their own. Unfortunately, the saccharine narrative and less-than-satisfying resolution make Baby Bear an additional purchase at best.--Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Nelson's luscious oils on canvas are as breathtaking as ever, and his superb, almost life-sized, depictions of these creatures in their natural environment hold a wonder of their own."—School Library Journal
Kadir Nelson
Kadir Nelson is the Caldecott Medal-winning artist of The Undefeated and a two-time Caldecott Honor recipient for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. Among his numerous other awards are three NAACP Image Awards, two Coretta Scott King Author Awards, and three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. His work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and The New Yorker, and his paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of notable institutions across the country, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.; The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. Kadir lives with his wife is Southern California, and invites you to visit him at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Publication date
January 07, 2014
BISAC categories
JUV002030 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Bears
JUV039140 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
Library of Congress categories
Forest animals
Missing children
Lost children
Kentucky Bluegrass Award
Recommended 2016 - 2016

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