What We’re Reading Wednesday: Bear & Hare: SNOW!

This week we’ve been making our way through some of the nominated titles for the 2016 Greenaway Medal. Bear and Hare: SNOW!  by Emily Gravett seemed an appropriately seasonal choice to share with you this Wednesday…

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A simple story with minimal words but full of Emily Gravett’s trademark wit and charm. We’re told that “Hare loves snow”, but what of Bear? What ensues is the story of a whole friendship in microcosm.

Hare is clearly leading the way in this adventure, he’s done this before we assume and treats the day’s activities with gusto. Not so for poor bear who trails in his friend’s wake for much of the snowy adventure. Catching snowflakes causes Hare to smile in excitement but Bear’s expression looks worried and perhaps a little bemused.  The text tells us that ‘they make snow prints’ but a glance at the pictures tells us that this is definitely a one sided activity: Hare skates breezily around the page but Bear stands marooned waist deep in snow. He’s just not getting this snow malarkey!

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The physical juxtaposition of the two characters is played to great effect – Hare’s dusky white fur allows him to look at home in the snowy landscape whilst Bear’s scruffy orange coat and contrasting size make him stick out like a sore thumb. It’s a constant visual reminder of how ill at ease and unsure of what to do with himself he is; the long limbed Hare can tread delicately on the blanket of snow (literally running circles around Bear) whilst Bear’s greater bulk and reticence simply leave him immobilised.

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Bear just about reaches breaking point as we see him being pushed up the hill by a still chipper Hare – a tremulous enquiry about ‘Home?’ on his lips. But if Hare’s blithe disregard for his friend’s feelings and cold nose all seem a touch too harsh, fear not; Hare it seems has a plan, for who could resist the joy of sledging! Until now Bear and Hare have appeared on separate sides of each double page spread but the prospect of a sledge ride brings them together in a lovely sequence of pages which sees them trekking up and then whizzing down the pages together. Harmony is restored with the joyous exclamation of ‘Hare and Bear love snow’.

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It’s a wonderful book for younger readers – though the words are sparing (only 60 in total – with some pages containing only 3 -4 words per double page spread) the story is far from stinting. It’s a great twist too on their earlier adventure in Bear and Hare Go Fishing which saw Bear in the driving seat with a distinctly less enthusiastic Hare in tow. I read this with my two year old who immediately grasped the subtleties of the friendship, indignantly calling out ‘he needs to give him his scarf back!’ whilst giggling in shared joy at the sledge ride. It’s a perfect read for this time of year (we’ve got fingers and toes crossed in our household for a White Christmas!) – full of snow, scarves and sledging but more importantly it’s a great introduction to the idea that we all approach new situations differently and sometimes it’s great to have a friend who will push you out of your comfort zone!

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Ever inventive with their use of endpapers, Emily Gravett and Macmillan add a final chapter to the story with the lovely vignette of a content, hot chocolate drinking, Hare and Bear on the very last page. The polka-dot mugs echo the snowy skies that provide the backdrop throughout and the bibliographic data forms the rising steam – a lovely touch!

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