Bear Stays Up For Christmas, written by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman, Simon & Schuster, 2004.
Before I found Karma Wilson on Facebook earlier this year, I thought she must be a lovely older lady with a beautiful spirit because her writing is so perfect and wise. I was a bit wrong. She is lovely and she does have a beautiful spirit, but she is actually a few years younger than I am. Sigh. I have forgiven her for being younger than I am because of the beautiful spirit that infuses all of her books for children.
I fell in love with Karma Wilson's "Bear" books early on in my years as a children's librarian. They are a joy to read out loud, either to an audience of one or thirty. The rhythm, meter and word choice is always perfect. And there is always a "heart-tug" moment. Karma Wilson paints with her words: every one is needed, not one is wasted. In this book, Bear takes time away from his hibernation to give his friends a special surprise at Christmas. He succeeds, but he, also, is surprised.
Jane Chapman's beautiful illustrations give even more life to Bear and his woodland friends. I don't know how she does it, but she manages a realism that is not frightening and a sweetness that is not twee or precious. Her animals are instantly recognizable for what they are, with expressions that completely match the actions and words that Karma Wilson gives them. Her artwork is also instantly recognizable as her own.
So far, we have four "Bear" books in our house. We won't be stopping there.