The Little Bear books are a series written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, published by Harper & Row, Publishers.
Despite the gentle touch, slow pacing, and repetitive language, especially in the early members of the series, these books have a broad appeal. The secret lies in the absolute lovability of Little Bear. For adults he is the epitome of a unspoiled little boy, without any meanness or mischief to tarnish his cuteness. For children, he is one of themselves, with the same thoughts and dreams—thoughts logical only from a child's perspective and dreams attainable only in the world as they naively suppose it to be. The best book by far in the series is Little Bear's Visit, which relates a day at his grandparents. This is the one I relish reading, for two reasons. First, it pictures the sweet, idyllic love that can bridge two generations. Second, the story each grandparent tells is a gem. The first time a little one hears the goblin's story, his mouth drops wide open in amazement, and when the mystery is solved, he laughs out loud from sheer relief.
The pictures are a large factor in the books' success. They are careful drawings in a realistic style, excelling in the rendering of pose and facial expression. Despite their omission or limited use of color, they are so believable that a reader easily enters their world and feels at home.
Little Bear (1957)
Father Bear Comes Home (1959)
Little Bear's Friend (1960)
Little Bear's Visit (1961)
A Kiss for Little Bear (1968)
After the books spawned successful adaptations for video and TV, a whole new series of Little Bear books started in 2002, with the original author but with illustrators other than Sendak. The new ones are several notches lower in overall quality. They include Little Bear's Loose Tooth (2002), I Miss You, Father Bear (2002), Get Well Soon, Little Bear! (2002), The Snowball Fight (2002), Little Bear Makes a Scarecrow (2002), Little Bear Makes a Mask (2003), Little Bear's Bad Day (2003), Lost in Little Bear's Room (2004), and Emily's Birthday (2004).
Most of these titles, both in the original and newer series, are still in print, and the rest are available new or used at reasonable prices.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.