Johnathan lives on Hemlock Mountain, which is really more of a hill than a mountain, with his parents and surrounded by a large extended family. One of Johnathan’s cousins is about to be christened, and his mother is hosting the entire family after church. After casting about for ideas of what to make for so many ideas, Johnathan’s father suggests a big pot of stew. His mother loves the idea, but then wonders where she’ll get a pot big enough to hold enough stew for all those people.
Then she remembers Aunt Emma has the largest iron pot, and sends Johnathan over Hemlock Mountain to fetch the pot. Johnathan isn’t sure he wants to go because he’s heard there are bears on Hemlock Mountain, but his mother assures him there aren’t any.
After a long trudge through the snow and over the hill, Johnathan discovers there ARE bears on Hemlock Mountain. But his quick thinking saves his skin as he waits for his father and uncles to come rescue him. They do, and Johnathan can proudly tell his mother he brought the iron pot all by himself.
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh tells Johnathan’s story in simple words, with wood-cut-inspired illustrations scattered throughout the book. There’s quite a bit of white space, and the chapters are short, making this book perfect for beginning chapter book readers. Johnathan’s encounter with the bears is suspenseful, but the suspense lasts only a few minutes until his father and uncles rescue him, and take him home – a happy ending for this little book.