The Bear’s Surprise by Benjamin Chaud

So between watching college basketball and drinking my coffee, I’m posting my review of Benjamin Chaud‘s (2015, Chronicle Books) The Bear’s Surprise a little early this week. Another translated book (see my review of Dubac’s The Lion and the Bird if you’re creating a text set of translated books), this oversized picture book will delight elementary school readers.

Here’s a quick summary ….. Little Bear wonders where Papa Bear is and embarks upon a journey through the forest. Entering a hole, he ends up in a cave and eventually finds Papa and Mama Bear in a large circus tent. Soon Little Bear is performing with his parents and little brother Teeny Tiny Bear. After impressing the crowd, Little Bear becomes tired and returns to the forest with his family.

So when I first started reading The Bear’s Surprise, I was reminded of Where’s Waldo?. And I just smiled when I read Publishers Weekly’s review of the book: “A wonderfully Gallic cousin to Where’s Waldo?” I loved the book’s whimsical nature and the illustrations so much that I found myself wondering if the book could exist as a wordless picture book. The unique cut outs on each page really motivate the reader to turn the page to discover the next page’s adventures. And the book’s height only intensifies the circus scenes’ excitement and energy. Readers would have had a totally different experience with this book had this book been positioned horizontally.

Here are some teaching ideas for The Bear’s Surprise:

(1) Using The Bear’s Surprise as a mentor text, ask students to create their own adventure story that uses several cut outs. Having students use cut outs really helps them think deeply about plot development because the cut outs have to work on the current and subsequent page.

(2) Bring in the original publication Poupoupidours by helium and ask students to compare and contrast the French and English versions of the text. This will help build students’ understandings of different languages and learn more about the concept of books in translation.

Let me know what you think about The Bear’s Surprise in the comments below.

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