Written by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
(Candlewick Press, 2008)
A stuffie named Winnie excepted, bears are not known for their social skills. I always suspected that the famous family of three, duly incensed by Goldilocks, would not have welcomed her under any circumstances. In A Visitor for Bear, author Bonny Becker solidifies the reputation of the bear as an inhospitable beast. The story begins with Bear living in a house with a “NO VISITORS ALLOWED” sign prominently posted on the front door. As Bear was, well, a bear, everyone obeyed.
Well, almost everyone. While bears have a reputation for being antisocial, mice are known to invite themselves into our dwellings (often bringing the whole extended family with them). Just as Bear begins to prepare his breakfast, he hears a “tap, tap tapping” on the door with the “NO VISITORS ALLOWED” sign. The nerve! Bear opens the door to find a mouse, “small and gray and bright-eyed.”
Grr! Bear tells the intruder to scat.
Bear goes back to the business of getting ready for breakfast with a place setting for one. The mouse reappears in the cupboard, asking the homeowner for “just a spot of tea.”
GRR! Scram, scoot, skedaddle, orders Bear.
But, of course, as everyone knows, once mice show up, it is hard to be rid of them. Mouse pops up again and again. Eventually, Bear becomes exasperated and breaks down. He caves. A bit of breakfast and then the mouse must be gone for good.
And just like Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch, Bear discovers that a little companionship might actually have its rewards. Becker’s story is a heart-warming reminder that we all need a friend.
As I read the text, I enjoyed the formality with which the mouse speaks (e.g., “I do like a bit of cheese”; “Terribly sorry”) and I incorrectly surmised that Becker was from England. (In fact, she lives in Seattle.) The language makes the tale more whimsical. As well, Denton’s illustrations, done with soft watercolors, ink and gouache, add to the warmth of the story. Bear’s home resembles a manor one would imagine in the English countryside and the ursine homeowner’s expressions are priceless, worth a second perusal. There is one picture near the story’s end with Bear holding the teapot and eying the mouse that I especially adore. Not surprisingly, A Visitor for Bear is one of a series of Bear and Mouse books by Becker and Denton. The other titles are The Sniffles for Bear, A Bedtime for Bear and A Birthday for Bear. (Seems that, along with the notoriety, Bear’s friend gets a capital M in the subsequent books.)
A Visitor for Bear is a warm, fuzzy read that deserves many visits!