Grumpy Fun with Two Picture Books about Bears: Mother Bruce and The Bear Report

BookendsLynn: We all know someone who is too grumpy for words, and it is sad but true that I “bear” more than a passing resemblance to the grumpy character, Bruce, in Ryan Higgins’ picture book, Mother Bruce (2015) on some days. I do try to focus on the positive, honestly I do. But thanks to cold December rains, badly timed snowstorms, and the overwhelming madness of neverending to-do lists, I am ready to flee to a tropical island and ignore the winter months entirely! In short, I am close to being as big a grump as Bruce.

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. HigginsAnd boy is Bruce a grump! He lives alone and does NOT like a very long list of things including rainy days, sunny days, and cute little animals. He does like eggs but, unlike other bears, Bruce likes to cook his eggs using fancy recipes he finds on the internet. One day, Bruce discovers a tempting recipe involving hard-boiled goose eggs, so out he goes and collects the ingredients. But before he can even flick a whisk, the eggs hatch and the baby geese imprint on Bruce. He does his best to tell the goslings that he is NOT their mother by being extra grumpy. Nothing works, however, and Bruce is left with four little problems on his paws.

Ha! Even the crankiest reader will love this silly but clever story, and the sunny-side-up ending will make them crack a big smile. Higgins’ illustrations are adorable! If you need a way to scramble your grumpy attitude, check out Mother Bruce . . . you’ll be laughing in no time.

The Bear Report by Thyra HederCindy: I’ll tell you what makes me grumpy: boring animal reports. Fortunately, uninspiring research projects don’t come around much anymore, but I used to spend a lot of time helping students look up basic facts about animal habits and habitats. If only Olafur would show up in every library faced with animal reports. Thyra Heder’s The Bear Report (2015) features a young girl faced with filling out a worksheet with three facts about polar bears for an Arctic study unit. She comes up with these gems:

  1. They are big
  2. They eat things
  3. They are mean

I’ve seen these answers before! Satisfied with her work, she trots off to watch TV and is surprised when Olafur, a polar bear, appears, overflowing an armchair. “We’re not ALL mean,” he says to her, offering to show her where he lives. When she declines, saying she’s seen pictures, he says, “It’s better in person.” Before you know it, she has an up-close and personal introduction to the bear and his habitat. The final spread of Sophie hard at work on an amazing project about her bear is one that will warm every cold and grumpy librarian’s heart.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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