"Don't pick the prickly pear by paw
When you pick a pear, try to use the claw"
-- Terry Gilkyson, "Bare Necessities"
"Can you forage like a bear? It's July. Find food. But where?
"Search mountain meadows. Unearth roots. Crisp, they crack. A brown bear snack.
"Wait. What was that? Tilt your head. Use your ears. Dig in. Dig down. Paw and claw and pull! Find...
"a ground squirrel. Grab and crunch a meaty lunch. Settle and snooze as bumblebees buzz past."
While it is perfectly logical to expect that an amazing picture book illustrator would become increasingly amazing over time as he or she matures and perfects his or her craft, it, nevertheless, blows me away in a serious way to feast my eyes on the results of Steve Jenkins's latest and greatest work. The images of the grizzly bear, who is the subject of this engaging look at a year in the gastronomic life of such creatures, are crafted from "cut- and torn paper collage...made with Amate, a handmade Mexican bark paper created from the bark of ficus (fig) trees." These images are so captivating, both in looking at the representations as part of the story and then just taking in the beauty of the paper itself. And the contrast of the torn-paper bears with the blues and greens and yellows and tans Jenkins employs in his depictions of earth and sky and plant life is just so...(What's another word for amazing?) There are also his representations of pine cones and moths and bees and a slug and a skunk. Each little piece is worthy of being stared at and soaked in, and the finished spreads incorporating bear and sky and ground and mountain and leaves and the other critters are truly a sight to behold.
I continue to scratch my head over those individuals and groups who see Common Core State Standards as some sort of conspiracy. CCSS is, in fact, ushering in a golden age of nonfiction in trade books, including in picture books. You can tell when, as is the case here, editors are taking note and ensuring that an informational picture book (which, to be successful, eschews wordiness in the illustrated text) is supplemented with a wealth (a whole pack of well-chosen words) of additional, relevant information in the back matter.
"Hey there, Boo Boo!"
-- Yogi Bear, whose image is now used in Yellowstone National Park, instructing young visitors not to feed the bears.
Here, stashed in the back matter of EAT LIKE A BEAR, there is an absolute feast of fascinating fact about Ursus arctos. The highlight for me is a section titled "Do Bears Really Hibernate," which provides a great deal of up-to-the-minute knowledge about science of hibernation and what it all means in terms of grizzlies. There is also an excellent section about the history of how they once let people feed bears in Yellowstone, and then how they stopped letting people feed bears in Yellowstone.
Picture book as engaging story; as art; as science; and as inspiration for budding storytellers, artists, and young scientists. It's all here in EAT LIKE A BEAR.