“Eat Like a Bear,” written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (whose illustrations you may recognize from the Caldecott Honor recipient “What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?”), is a charming informational picturebook about the Brown Bear.
With its gorgeously detailed paper collage medium and its clever involvement of the reader through questions that ask how the bear will handle the challenge that each new month brings, young nature enthusiasts are sure to be excited about this recently published book. The repetitive phrases about how the bear moves and eats food can lead to fun pantomiming for both the readers and the listeners. A great way to show what new vocabulary words like “gnaw” and “claw” mean and to keep children physically engaged throughout the book!
However, for readers who are easily distracted or grossed out, this may not be the best choice. I will explain why from both a child development standpoint and a personal experience standpoint, since I read this book to many times to young children and their parents at our local hospital! The frequent use of questions (nearly every 2-page spread) means that any response time could lead to being off-topic. Amazon suggests that this book is for children ages 4-8. Up until around age 7, though, egocentrism is a primary mode of thinking, meaning that kids may end up relating the questions to themselves rather than the brown bear they are learning about throughout the book. I ended up in more than a few conversations about what the human children liked to eat rather than the preferences of the bear and what was going to happen next. In addition, I got more than a few “eww!” remarks and raised eyebrows from parents when the bear ate a dead bison for lunch, followed by a live squirrel as a snack. I appreciate the veracity of the information found in this book, but I’m not sure how appropriate this is for youngsters, let alone those who are more fond of the great indoors. I know I would have squirmed a little bit at that age, especially since I felt a bit weird every time I read that page as an adult!