I was digging through my bookshelves recently, looking for books I could donate, when I came across one of my children’s favorites. I read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury so many times I think I can still almost recite it from memory.
As it sat on my desk waiting for me to write this review, each of my children spotted it and exclaimed over it like a long-lost friend. “Oh! I remember this book! I love this book!”
Each one reread it, and of course I have a dissenter. “That book doesn’t make sense. Why can’t they just go around their obstacles? Their only options are to go over or under them? It just doesn’t make sense.”
I tickled her severely, and told her she was ruining the book for everyone else. “It’s a book for toddlers! They don’t need endless options – just a few. Besides, if they went around everything, we wouldn’t have all the fun sound effects.”
I think she agreed with me just so I’d stop tickling her.
In We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a family starts off on a sunny day, hunting bear. They run into obstacle after obstacle, like “long, wavy grass” and “a deep, cold river.” As they decide to confront their obstacles head-on, we turn the page to find a color picture of them working through the obstacle, and fun sound effects to read.
Toddlers and preschoolers especially love the repetition, the rhyming and the sounds. About the middle of the book, the family finds a bear, and the whole tone of the book changes as they rush back to their house to hide in their bed. My children loved it when I read the last part at a frantic pace until, with relief, we find the family in the bed and deciding “We’re not going on a bear hunt again!”
Rosen & Oxbury’s version includes a picture at the end of the bear tramping back to his cave all alone. We had many a discussion about the bear – he looked so lonely and sad. We decided that he was chasing the family because he wanted a friend, not because he was mean. It is also a board book, which meant my toddlers could look at the pictures over and over again without ruining the book.
Experts recommend parents start reading to children at two-three months old. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a great starting book.