Little Bear's Treasures

The Little Bear starring in Stella Dreis's Little Bear's Treasure wouldn't be out of place in the company of Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak's famous like-named charmer.

The Little Bear created by Dreis (Happiness Is a Watermelon on Your Head) isn't a treasure seeker but a "treasure finder... because he didn't look for his treasures--he found them. Everywhere." Little Bear couldn't be prouder of his haul, but when he talks it up to the other forest denizens, they're dismissive. "Eventually, Little Bear stopped sharing. He became quiet and his little nose drooped down low." When a tiny bird asks him why his nose is so low to the ground, Little Bear says, "I like to find treasure, like... this stick." Incredibly, Little Bird gets it, which is to say that Little Bird gets Little Bear. Together, the two become treasure-finding partners. That night, while watching the night sky together, Little Bird falls asleep, and Little Bear thinks about "how you can find treasure. How treasure can find you. How the best treasures are the kind that snore."

Unlike Minarik and Sendak's anthropomorphized bear, Dreis's Little Bear lives in what is tempting to call a natural habitat: he coexists with other animals, his treasures culled from the forest floor. Yet how likely is one to encounter a donkey among forest creatures? And even if one were to meet what looks like a white goose in the woods, what are the odds that it would be wearing slip-on shoes? Although these pleasingly incongruous visuals appear in illustrations created with careful lines and an earthy palette, the art of Little Bear's Treasure manages to have an ebullient quality that captures the bear's euphoria at the knowledge that he has stumbled upon something more priceless than treasure: someone who understands him. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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