Where is Baby Bear by Jane Belk Moncure

A while back I noticed a new set of books in the Preschool-Kindergarten section of the school library where I’ve volunteered for the last 11 years. They attracted my attention and that of the students coming in. They were being checked out quite often, but it was only recently that I grabbed a few to bring home with me.

This series is called Magic Castle Readers, and there are several similarities besides the uniformity of size. Because of the name, each cover is an illustration from inside the book, except that a castle has been somehow incorporated into it. They all begin the same way, explaining on two pages how the library is a magic castle with many Word Windows (books) in it. Of course, it also explains how a book is a Word Window. We then see the protagonist of each story sitting in the library holding the exact book you are at that moment.

In Jane Belk Moncure’s Where is Baby Bear?, Peters is our protagonist.  He opens a Word Window and sees animals playing in the woods.  He asks Duck, Bunny, Raccoon, and Baby Bear to play with him, and they decide on hide-and-seek. The animals go off to hide, and Peter begins to look for them.

For each animal, Peter looks in one or two places then decides it’s possible the animal went to their home to hide. This proves successful until he gets to the last one–Baby Bear–and realizes he doesn’t know where Baby Bear’s home is. He sits down on the log with Duck, Raccoon and Bunny and asks them, but they won’t tell. Peter gives up, declares Baby Bear the winner, and the log begins to roll. Off everyone fell, and who do you think peeks out?

The final two pages show six homes from within the story and invite children to find them when they play animal hide-and-seek.

The first thing I noticed when reading was the total lack of contractions, making this a more pure reading experience for beginners. Then again, there are some words that they may stumble over…cattails, butterflies, grasshoppers, climbed. For the most part, the illustrations will provide visual aid in figuring out these words. Once the early reader recognizes that correlation, they will come more naturally.

Another benefit is repetition. For the first animal, we get “Maybe Duck went home.”, and later, “There you are, Duck…right at home in the pond where you belong.” Take out Duck and pond and insert the appropriate words for the remaining characters, and Moncure has just made future readings easier. Again, once the repetition is recognized, so too will the words be.

The illustrations by Joy Friedman are nothing to really write home about. Just your typical, run-of-the-mill watercolors. There is not a lot of detail to distract. In fact, each picture of the basic goings-on is surrounded by quite a bit of white space.

About the similarities mentioned earlier on, there is another that is more telling as to the intent behind these stories. On the front cover is a few words telling what the theme of the story is…”A Book About Animal Homes,” “A Book of Rhyming,” A Book About Counting,” and so on. The back cover of each book is exactly the same–a dragon reading beside bookshelves which are labeled. There are six sections…Language Arts, Social Science, Science, Creative Arts, Math, and Health Science. The titles of the books found within the sections match those in the series. This makes an easy reference if you’d like to look for one that “teaches” a particular area. Where is Baby Bear? (A Book About Animal Homes) is located on the Science shelf.

One potentially major con for some might be the part wherein Peter is looking for Raccoon. He knows that the animal lives in a tree, so he climbs up searching branches until he reaches the top of the tree and locates Raccoon a hole in the trunk. This may not bode well for parents or teachers who do not want the children listening to/reading the story to think that climbing trees (let alone to the top) is an okay thing to do. Peter appears to be about 4-5 years old, most certainly not an age that should be attempting such feats.

Other than that one faux pas, these are really great books for a school setting, day care, or your little ones at home. Their size (9½ x 7¾ x ¼ for the hardcover) makes holding them up for a group just as easy as lap reading. The font is a nice, large size. They aid in the learning-to-read process at the same time that they teach practical subjects in an entertaining way. The entire set is very attractive on a shelf. The illustrations could have been better, but I’m sure the simplicity was to prevent distraction while giving visual aid. Besides, we can’t always have it all, right?

The children devour these books at school. I just wish I had come across them when my own could have benefited from them.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.