Bear wants some honey, but he is too afraid of bees to approach a hive that’s hanging off a tree branch, just at eye level. He shares his fears with a stranger, who asks him if he’s ever seen a bee. The fearsome creature Bear then imagines and describes to the stranger is nothing like a real bee, but very much like a bear. And even the youngest audience will know that the sympathetic stranger Bear is talking to is, in fact, a bee, and that there is nothing at all to fear in either one of them. Bear wears flip-flops and Bee wears high-top sneakers in the comical illustrations printed in monochromatic hues. Ruzzier clearly understands the psyches of young children, who are more likely to fear bees than bears and who will delight in being smarter—and braver—than Bear. A sure hit for the story-hour set.
Kathleen T. Horning (The Horn Book)
A few months ago a Milanese printmaker, Guido Pigni, asked me if I was interested in making an etching with him.
I have always been a big admirer of printmakers, from Albrecht Dürer to Arthur Geisert, and I did, years ago, try to engrave a couple of copper plates with mixed results. Overcoming my natural fear of failure, I gratefully said yes to Guido. Here’s the result. It’s an etching and aquatint (the greytones), approximately 8 inches by 10 on a 13 inches by 10 paper. You can buy a copy (or more…) on my Etsy shop.
Hungry little Bear would love some honey, which he’s kindly being offered, but he’s afraid of upsetting the dangerous bees. He thinks he knows what bees are: they are “terrible monsters. They are big and they have large teeth, and they have sharp claws, and they never share their honey!” The kindly critter offering honey points out that Bear is the one who’s big, with large teeth and sharp claws (“Poor me! I am a bee!” cries Bear), and then reveals himself to be an actual bee—who does indeed share his honey. Oversized fears are something kids can definitely relate to, and the book gently and tacitly addresses the topic while making an excellent layered joke that’s easily within youngsters’ grasp. They’ll enjoy knowing from the start what silly Bear doesn’t, and his moment of wrong-headed self-identification is preschool comedy gold. Ruzzier’s cozily uneven, very handmade lines are filled with opaque planes of soft digital color over full-bleed backgrounds to make a simple but warmly welcoming landscape. As usual, he has some subtle otherworldly touches (the botanicals are a little Seussian, and the bear’s imagined bee is pretty Martian), but those elements are counterpointed by the everydayness of both characters’ footwear (Bear in simple sandals, Bee in gym shoes) and their childlike gestures (Bee expressively deploys all four arms). This friendship-not-fear tale is a natural for storytime or laptime, especially if followed up by a nice honey-touched snack.
By PAMELA PAUL
Published: March 13, 2013
Sergio Ruzzier’s illustrations always manage to be soft and fluffy and kind toward children — without slipping into saccharine gauziness. In two new picture books, one written and illustrated by Ruzzier, the other written by Eve Bunting, Ruzzier’s spare pen-and-ink pictures charmingly enliven animal stories in just the way preschoolers like.
BEAR AND BEE
Written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
48 pp. Disney-Hyperion Books. $14.99. (Picture book; ages 2 to 6)
HAVE YOU SEEN MY NEW BLUE SOCKS?
By Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
32 pp. Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $16.99. (Picture book; ages 3 to 7)
Both tales concern befuddled yet lovable animals, trying to bumble their way out of confusing circumstances. The pleasure for young listeners is getting to laugh at these characters, while at the same time feeling at once superior to and affectionate toward them. Isn’t it comforting to know that other creatures forget things, make mistakes and generally have the wrong idea?
For example, children derive great pleasure from those moments when a grown-up who can’t lay hands on his hat or keys or gloves finds the missing object close at hand. In “Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?,” observant readers will notice halfway through that the hapless green duck is wearing his sought-after socks inside his shoes; they’ve just kind of sunk below the heel. (Come on, it’s happened to you.) This isn’t the only story to make much of this particular silly-goose premise; another new picture book, “Mister Whistler,” by Margaret Mahy and Gavin Bishop, concerns a man whose lost train ticket is held all the while between his teeth.
In this bighearted landscape, everyone wants to help and no one is made to feel stupid or foolish — even at the inevitable moment of epiphany. As they did in their earlier book, “Tweak, Tweak,” Bunting and Ruzzier work together well, capturing preschool fears and uncertain sentiments but, in the end, making it all O.K.
While “New Blue Socks” is about mishap, “Bear and Bee” is about misunderstanding. […]
When Bee points out that Bear actually fits this description, the stunned beast is forced to confront reality. “Poor me!” he wails. “I am a bee!” Ever the busy helper, Bee points out the error in Bear’s thinking. All is cleared up, honey is shared, friends are made. On the surface, this is a simpler tale than “Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?” though young readers who still haven’t completely distinguished their bears from their bees may be as mystified as Bear. But it does all get sorted out, sweetly, in the end.
Things that happened on March 12th:
1622: Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier, founders of the Jesuits, are canonized as saints by the Catholic Church.
1894: Coca-Cola is bottled and sold for the first time in Vicksburg, Mississippi, by local soda fountain operator Joseph Biedenharn.
1993: The Blizzard of 1993 – Snow begins to fall across the eastern portion of the US with tornadoes, thunder snow storms, high winds and record low temperatures. The storm lasts for 30 hours.
2013: Bear and Bee by Sergio Ruzzier is published by Disney-Hyperion.
Yesterday I was at Books of Wonder in Manhattan for the first signing of Bear and Bee and Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? Thanks to all the nice people who came by and to all the staff! If you want to get a signed and doodled copy, you can get it from BoW’s website, clicking on the titles of the books in this post, above. Here’s what I saw as I entered the store.