Bear and Mouse (small and gray and bright-eyed, of course) are back, just in time to celebrate Bear's birthday--whether Bear wants to or not, in A Birthday for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Candlewick, 2009). We first met Bear and Mouse in last year's picture book A Visitor for Bear, which won the E.B. White Read Aloud Award. Now the unlikely pair returns in an early reader from Candlewick Sparks.
The early reader format makes sense for Bear and Mouse, who are literary descendants of Frog and Toad, and it suits Becker's storytelling here as well. While I miss the spaciousness and surprises of Visitor, Mouse's attempts to deliver balloons, a present, and finally a chocolate cake to Bear in Birthday fall nicely into short chapters. Spoiler alert: The cake succeeds! I'm not sure about the present, though.
Interestingly, the next Bear and Mouse book, A Bedtime for Bear (Spring 2010), will be another picture book. From Becker's website: "Bear has Mouse over for Bear’s first ever sleep over. But in order to sleep, Bear must have quiet, absolute quiet. To Bear’s great frustration and growing annoyance, Mouse is far from quiet as a…well, you know." I sort of wish that everyone involved had chosen one format or the other and stuck with it. My vote would be for the picture book, but A Birthday for Bear is a great choice for newly independent readers...and you can read it aloud, too.