Books About Bears

Annie and the Wild Animals

by Jan Brett

For four of the five years of Off the Shelf's existence, we have featured a Jan Brett book in at least one of the winter months. This pattern was completely unintentional, but makes sense with the snowy, usually Scandinavian settings of her stories. So, you can tell it's winter as we bring you another treasure, Annie and the Wild Animals

Annie is feeling restless after a long winter. Her loneliness is made worse when her cat Taffy disappears, seemingly for good. In hopes of finding a new friendly pet, Annie bakes corn cakes and places them on the edge of the forest. Come along on a snowy, end of winter adventure to find out if Annie's corn cake plan succeeds! Full of Jan Brett's signature illustrations, Annie and the Wild Animals is a delightful story for young readers to enjoy on long winter days (or any time of the year). 

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The Three Snow Bears

by Jan Brett

Although many of us are trying to avoid thinking about the freezing temperatures outside, as a follow-up to last week's Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we have chosen to feature The Three Snow Bears, an interpretation set in the Artic north. Rather than Goldilocks, the story features Aloo-ki, the raven-haired Inuit girl who discovers the igloo of a polar bear family. Adding to the charm and beauty of this book are the playful boarders of each page filled with mischevious artic animals dressed in parkas and having great fun. We love all of Jan Brett's books, but this one has a special place at the top of the list. 

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Goldilocks and the Three Bears

by Jan Brett

Originally published in 1837 by Robert Southey as the story of the three bears, today's Goldilocks and the Three Bears actually has its roots in oral English folklore. In the original folk tale, Goldilocks was an old woman and in some versions a fox. In 1850, English writer Joseph Caudall changed the old woman to a little girl with silver hair. Around 1870, the story appeared in several versions and the child's hair was being shown as gold. The name Goldilocks was finally used in 1904 in Old Nursery Stories and Rhymes and has stuck ever since. 

We have chosen to feature Jan Brett's lavishly illustrated version to highlight the old world influenced artwork and its connection to the country of the story's origin. Absolutely enjoy reading the story with your young reader, but also take the time to sit and pore over the detailed illustrations and discover the activities going on beyond the words of the book. 

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Please Bring Balloons

by Lindsay Ward

Isn't there something enchanting about carousels? The moment the ride begins you are zooming through the air upon a magical beast, the lines between fantasy and reality immediately blurred. And these thrills are not limited to the days of childhood, for as soon as the ride is moving you can return to that state of mind.

Please Bring Balloons is the story of a girl named Emma who finds a mysterious note under the saddle of a carousel polar bear. With the help of some balloons, the pair travel through the starry sky on an adventure, charmingly depicted through colorful, fanciful cut-paper illustrations.

Perhaps the reason this book draws you in is author Lindsay Ward's special connection to carousels. If you read the back flap of the book jacket you will read that her parents met while painting carousel animals, so her deep connection to the magic of carousels is quickly felt by the reader!

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Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

by Barney Saltzberg

Ni Hao, friends!

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep is not usually a book we would feature on Off the Shelf. You see, Chengdu is a 'sleepy-time' book, perfect for reading to young readers preparing to go to bed. This is one of a huge category of children's books which is not usually conducive to the art activities and recipes that we usually feature on Off the Shelf. But Barney Saltzberg has put a new twist on the classic going-to-sleep book by filling the pages of his book with action, both by Chengdu (who tosses and turns and climbs and more) and for the reader (with several fold-out pages). Does Chengdu ever fall asleep? Find out!

In this Issue

 

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Saltzberg's illustrations were the springboard for this exploration of lines and circles. This activity combines several elements, beginning with the experiment of painting with colored paint on black paper then using homemade stencils to layer circles over the painted lines. The resulting artwork is Chengdu-inspired but free enough to express your young reader's individuality. While you might want to make the stencils ahead of time, kids may want to help trace the circles.

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils

Supplies

For stencils:

  • Cardboard from a cereal or similar box
  • Cans or lids to trace
  • Marker
  • Scissors or X-acto knife

For artwork:

  • Black paper
  • Green, black, and white paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Homemade stencils
  1. To make stencils (Parent step): Trace a circle on a deconstructed box. Leaving a border of a few inches, cut out a rectangle with the circle in the center.  Cut out circle with scissors or an X-acto knife. Repeat with various size circles. 
  2. Using green paint, paint lines on black paper. Let dry.
  3. Using stencils, paint black and white circles over green lines. 

P.S. Were circle stencils a big hit? Try making stencils of squares, triangles, or even tracing cookie cutter to make a stencil collection. 

Continue the fun of this activity by turning one or all of the white circles into pandas by using a marker to add a face and ears!

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep


 

Learn About Pandas

This video features panda photos and facts for kids.

 

Bamboo Stir Fry

Bamboo Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep - Off the Shelf

Because the bamboo grove plays such a big part in the book, we knew we had to include bamboo shoots in our recipe. Although bamboo shoots can be difficult to find fresh, they are very common canned in the international aisle of grocery stores. They are very mild and tend to take on the flavor of the other ingredients cooked with them, in this case carrots, sugar snap peas, and water chestnuts.

Like most stir fries, this recipe is easy to adapt to your family's tastes or what you have on hand: try adding cooked chicken, zucchini, broccoli, green onions, etc., and/or serving over cooked brown rice. 

Bamboo Stir Fry

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (from one large carrot)
  • 1 8 oz. can bamboo shoots, drained
  • 1 8 oz. can water chestnuts, drained
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. 
  2. Add carrots, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts and stir for about one minute. Add water and cover, steaming for 2-3 minutes. Stir in soy sauce. 

 

More from Off the Shelf

More Barney Saltzberg: Beautiful Oops!

Two Years AgoThe Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

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"Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!"

by Patricia Thomas

Illustrated by Wallace Tripp

Dear Friends,

I'm going to break some sort of unwritten rule by staring this post off by talking about a book besides our book of the week. And that book is No Flying in the House. It doesn't seem like many people know about it but those who are devotees. I got it in the last Scholastic book order of the school year and remember being completely engrossed reading it in my book nook, which was comprised of my own bookshelves, a lamp and a little bean bag chair. 

Going forward several years, I read "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" to my kindergarten class, not realizing that the illustrations so beloved by my kindergartners were done by the same illustrator who had brought my beloved Gloria and Annabel to life. They loved the language and rhythm of "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!", but it was the richly detailed illustrations that truly captivated their imaginations. 

Although "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" is a bit longer than our usual picks, it is so fun and entertaining that it will hold your young reader's attention. We hope you enjoy this selection and if you weren't familiar with it before, the work of Wallace Tripp. 

Shelli

In this Issue

 Elephant Nose

Bring the story to life with an elephant nose that will curl and uncurl, powered by your young reader!

Elephant Nose Toy - "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" - Off the Shelf

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Elephant Nose

Supplies

  • Bathroom tissue roll
  • Gray or silver tissue paper
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • White paper for tusks
  1.  Cut a piece of tissue paper wide enough to fit around cardboard tube, and roughly twice the length. Wrap the tissue paper around the tube and secure with tape. Place another piece of tape halfway down the length of tissue paper to keep it closed. 
  2. Fold the end of the length of tissue paper closed and secure with tape. 
  3. Cut two tusks from white paper and tape to each side of the tissue covered tube. 

To use: Have your young reader hold the tube over their mouth and blow out to make an elephant sneeze, and breathe in through their mouth to make the elephant nose curl back up. 

  

Jungle Crumble Bars

Jungle Crumble Bars - "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" - Off the Shelf

Almost all the animals in "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" are represented in this fun to make recipe. This is all about the process of making this story-related recipe, so have fun making it together with your young reader. 

Jungle Crumble Bars - "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" - Off the Shelf

Jungle Crumble Bars - "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" - Off the Shelf

Jungle Crumble Bars - "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" - Off the Shelf

Jungle Crumble Bars - "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" - Off the Shelf

Jungle Crumble Bars - "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" - Off the Shelf

Jungle Crumble Bars - "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" - Off the Shelf

Jungle Crumble Bars

Makes 16. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup animal crackers
  • 1 cup leopard spots (chocolate Cheerios)
  • 1/2 cup graham goldfish (for the fish and crocodile)
  • 1/2 cup snakes (unsalted sesame sticks)
  • 1/2 cup dried banana slices (for the monkeys)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (for the mouse)
  • 1/4 cup bird feathers (unsweetened coconut)
  • 1/4 cup honey (for the bees and bear)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (for the elephant)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate chips (to make zebra stripes)
  1. Heat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. 
  2. In a large bowl, measure and mix together all ingredients except the peanut butter, honey, oil, and chocolate chips. 
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the honey, peanut butter, and vegetable oil until smooth. Pour over cereal mixture and stir until evenly coated. 
  4. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely. 
  5. Melt chocolate chips and drizzle over bars to make stripes. Once chocolate is set, cut into 16 bars. Enjoy!

 

One Year Ago: A Home for Bird by Philip Stead, My Garden by Kevin Henkes, and Anatole by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone.

Two Years Ago: Make Way for Ducklings by Robet McCloskey, We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, and Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni.


Big Bear's Big Boat

By Eve Bunting   

Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Hello friends,

How are you today? Are you in the mood for a book full of bright, cheery colors? We have just the thing: Big Bear's Big Boat , by Eve Bunting, who must be one of the most prolific children’s book authors of all time, and illustrated by one of my new favorites, Nancy Carpenter (Doesn't Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine sound very intriguing?). 

Big Bear's Big Boat - Off the Shelf

After Big Bear outgrows his little boat as described in Little Bear's Little Boat , he has the opportunity to build a new boat just to his liking. And he wants one just like his little boat, only bigger. Then, one after another, friends come along and make suggestions for more and more features… In the end, it’s not so much a lesson as a gentle reminder that sometimes you know what's best for yourself. Without getting too philosophical, that can be a very hard lesson to learn, and certainly not just for kids. 

Big Bear's Big Boat - Off the Shelf

Big Bear’s story comes to life with pen and ink illustrations that recall Beatrix Potter or Ernest Shepherd but are thoroughly modern thanks to the flat, digital color (If you are interested, here is a tour of Nancy Carpenter’s studio!). 

Big Bear's Big Boat

 

In this Issue

 

Sweet Potato Boats

Sweet Potato Boats - Big Bear's Big Boat - Off the Shelf

Sweet Potato Boats - Big Bear's Big Boat - Off the Shelf

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Sweet Potato Boats

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • sliced carrots for masts
  • slices of mozzarella cheese
  • sugar snap peas, for oars (optional but cute)
  1. Pierce sweet potatoes several times with a fork and cook in microwave until done. Cooking times will vary depending on size of sweet potatoes and microwave ovens, roughly 7 to 12 minues.
  2. Set sweet potatoes aside until cool enough to handle. Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise and scoop out centers, leaving skins and about 1/4 inch of flesh. Place scooped-out sweet potato in a bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in pizza sauce, diced tomatoes, milk, garlic powder, and shredded cheese. 
  3. Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the skins. There will probably be left-over filling; this can be placed in a small oven-safe dish and baked alongside the boats. Place boats on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Cut square cheese slice diagonally for two triangle sails. To assemble the boats, stand carrot stick up in sweet potato filling, and prop cheese sail against carrot mast. Serve quickly before sail gets melty!

 

Additional Activities

 

Styrofoam Boats

This is the type of open-ended activity that we love. With the same four basic supplies plus any others your young reader decides upon, every boat creation will be unique! Try floating them in the bathtub or kitchen sink, or take outside for puddle or pond sailing. 

Styrofoam Boats - Big Bear's Big Boat - Off the Shelf

Styrofoam Boats - Big Bear's Big Boat - Off the Shelf

Styrofoam Boats

Supplies

  • Pieces of styrofoam
  • Straws
  • Aluminum foil
  • Permanent markers
  1. Lay out supplies, and let your reader build their perfect boat!

 

More from Off the Shelf

Big Bear joins a sloth of literary bears like Pooh (of course), Otto the Book Bear, the mom and cub in Blueberries for Sal, and the little seen bears in We're Going on a Bear Hunt and The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

One Year Ago: And Then It's Spring is a simple story, with quiet, poetic text that reflects the feeling most of us have this time of year as we anxiously wait for the brown of late winter to turn to the green of early spring. Text by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin Stead. 

Two Years Ago: Too good to only come out at Easter (although it makes a lovely Easter basket addition), The Tale of Peter Rabbit is Beatrix Potter's classic tale of mischievous Peter and his adventures in Mr. McGregor's garden 


Otto the Book Bear

by Katie Cleminson

Otto the Book Bear is a special little bear who lives in a book, and nothing makes him happier than when children read his book. But Otto also has special secret adventures that happen when no one is looking: he walks right off the pages of his book and goes exploring.

Otto the Book Bear1

This is all well and good until Otto’s family packs up and moves away while he is out of his book. What is a book bear to do without his book to live in? Otto must now set out on his biggest adventure yet – to find a new home. 

Otto the Book Bear2

Otto the Book Bear is a story that will have young readers watching their own books to see who will hop off the shelf. It is a beautiful book with timeless illustrations that celebrates the magic of books, the joy of reading, and the warm feelings of friendship.

Otto the Book Bear3

 

Otto the Book Bear activities coming up this week:

Check out the bear books we've featured on Off the Shelf, plus the activities and recipes that go with them:

 


Bear Has a Story to Tell

By Philip C. Stead
illustrated by Erin E. Stead

The newest book from the husband and wife team who brought us A Sick Day for Amos McGee, this is a beautiful, circular story that takes the reader through the quiet process of hibernation and the gentle reawakening of spring.

We follow Bear on his slow, sleepy journey through the forest as he searches for his friends to hear his story. Bear has no luck in finding an audience but instead helps each friend he meets make final preparations for the coming winter months. Bear is the epitome of patience and friendship and you can’t help but feel cozy by the fondness the animals have for each other.

Once the others are settled and the snowflakes begin to fall, Bear snuggles into his den for the long winter sleep without getting the chance to tell his story. With the special joy that only spring sunshine can bring, Bear awakens and it once again ready to share his story. The earthy watercolor illustrations are magical, soft and muted, perfectly reflecting the tone of the story.  

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Bear Says Thanks

by Karma Wilson
Illustrated by Jane Chapman

During a time of year when our thoughts turn to togetherness and being cozy, Bear Says Thanks is a perfect choice to pull off the shelf and enjoy with your young reader!

Bear is bored and lonely in his cave and decides that having a feast with his friends is a wonderful way to brighten the day. As each friend arrives with an addition to the feast, Bear says “Thanks!” until he remembers his own cupboard is bare and he has nothing to add to the gathering. His friends help him realize he has a very special gift to share that will truly make the party complete.

Bear Says Thanks

Wilson’s playful, rhythmic text and a repeating title refrain will have children engaged and participating in the story from the very first page. Equally as wonderful are Jane Chapman’s delightful autumn toned illustrations that bring the animal friends to life with sweet, expressive faces that glow with the joy of being together. This is an irresistible book for Thanksgiving, beautiful fall days, or anytime you want to smile.

Bear Says Thanks
 

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