Written in 1976, Willy Bear is a book with the timeless theme of a young child overcoming the anxieties of the first day of school. The main character, a young boy, reveals his worries through projecting them onto his teddy bear, Willy, the night before the first day of school starts. The close relationship between the boy and Willy are relatable to many young children, who are probably growing up with a stuffed animal that they treasure as a dear friend, too.
The entire text of this book is the boy’s monologue as he addresses Willy. The book opens with “Good-night, Willy”, showing a sense of reassurance that the boy is prepared to go to bed. However, he ends up repeating this same line 4 more times after various instances in which he cannot fall asleep and pretends to be taking care of Willy who is also conveniently having some insomnia. Though there are no adults present in this story, the boy’s monologue to Willy sounds like what an adult would tell a child before the first day of school, such as how nice school is and how grown up you are to be going to school. At surface level, the boy appears to be comforting Willy, but in reality, through reassuring Willy, the boy also calms his own fears about going to school.
The illustrations in this book have very fine outlines in black ink that are colored with primarily pastel colors. The drawings are quite detailed in some aspects with the texture of window frames, stripes on pillows, and teeth of zippers. However, there are also many surfaces with just solid colors or drawings where the fingers and toes of the boy are not distinctly drawn, providing an interesting balance between detailed and simplistic illustrations. The use of wall color effectively shows the passage of time with a light green shade at dusk, a darker blue tint at night, and a bright yellow hue in the morning.
Overall, Willy Bear would be the perfect choice to help calm a young child who is scared of the first day of school. This book could be read the night before as a bedtime story or even during the morning of that day, as an encouragement before leaving to start a new adventure at school.