Old Bear and His Cub by Olivier Dunrea

All parents and grandparents have experienced the internal conflict between their desire to be benevolent versus the necessity to be strict, especially when it comes to looking after a headstrong toddler who doesn’t know better, but who is starting to assert his or her independence. The key, of course, is to pick one’s battles carefully, since some are more vital than others to be won — for example, those that pertain to the safety of the child. You win some, you lose some. Old Bear and His Cub is thus a sweetly rendered story that depicts this typical parent/grandparent-child dynamic using the two titular characters.

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Like any good guardian, Old Bear tries to do what’s best for his little cub and keep him safe. Alas, the stubborn little cub doesn’t listen to him all the time — even when the latter gives him the ol’do-it-or-else’ stare-down — and we witness examples of the battle of wills between the two. The repartee is kept simple but rings true — “No, I won’t”; “Yes, you will”; “No, I won’t”; “Yes, you will” — especially since many parent-child battles do tend to go in circles. But through it all, we are told — and it’s also clear in the illustrations — that they love each other very much.

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Then, in a twist to this sweet tale, the tables are flipped such that the little cub assumes the role of the stern but loving caregiver to Old Bear. Contrary to the cold, snowy landscape depicted, the gentleness of the text and illustrations will warm the cockles of your heart.

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