The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud

It’s an all-too-familiar story: father and son are supposed to take a nice snooze together, but the dad falls asleep before the kid, who has other, more fun ideas… (Of course, this usually just means that the child is either still fooling about on the bed, or, at the very most, has sneaked off to play with some toys on his own.)

In The Bear’s Song, however, Little Bear takes bedtime shenanigans to the extreme when he single-mindedly — and rather recklessly — runs off to chase after a hapless bee in search of that ‘bear’s gold’ — honey — while his unsuspecting father is hibernating.

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Thankfully, it doesn’t take Papa Bear too long to sense that something is wrong, and he wakes up to find his cub missing. So, what’s a dad to do but give pursuit? And what an epic chase it turns out to be, as the duo traverse the forest and the city streets, eventually ending up at an opera house where the desperate Papa Bear reaches out to his son in the only way he can think of, leading to an extra-sweet reunion between father and son.

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Originally published in French, the extra-tall format of this book (measuring 36cm by 24cm) provides ample space for the rich, somewhat baroque-style illustrations to take centre stage. In fact, the text is quite minimal and occupies a thin strip at the bottom of the pages. Older kids will enjoy poring over the amusing details in the sumptuous spreads, as well as the unspoken ‘Where’s Waldo?’ element within — especially since the style of illustration makes it rather challenging to spot the bears and the bee.

While there’s no deep message behind this whimsical book — unless you count the fact that all parents will probably do as Papa Bear did, and go to the ends of the world to find their missing kid — the illustrations alone make it a worthy read.

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