Thursday, July 26, 2018

All Wet!: Big Brown Bear's Birthday Surprise by David McPhail

"What a good idea, Rat," said Bear. "I do love a picnic. What a special day!"

"Indeed," said Rat. "Today is someone's birthday! It's yours!"

"Really?" asked Bear. "How do you know?"

"I remembered from last year. Birthdays are always on the same day.

"Amazing," said Bear.

Bear is pleased that his friend Rat has made him a birthday lunch and has a surprise present for him.

"It begins with B!" Rat hints.

Bear hides his eyes, and while Rat rummages in the hamper for his gift, a loose rowboat floats down the river and bumps into the bank beside the two picnickers. Bear opens his eyes and the first thing he sees is the boat. Excitedly, Bear thanks Rat. Saying it's just what he's always wanted, Bear jumps on board and mans the oars. Protesting that the boat is not his gift, Rat has no choice but to jump into the boat, too, as Bear declares that he is going to row upstream and return the boat to its owner.

Before they get too far, a straw hat and a fishing pole also come floating down the river. Bear claims them, claps the hat on his head and declaring that he loves to fish, he tosses out the line while Rat takes over the rowing. But Bear has hardly deployed his bait before they meet a burly man floating dejectedly downstream on a log.

"Hey! That's my hat you're wearing!" the man shouted.

And as Bear tosses him the hat, the man notices that Bear also has possession of his boat and fishing gear, too. Bear offer both to him, but when the man clambers onboard the little rowboat, it starts taking on water, and soon the vessel is swamped.

Rat and Bear and the boat are sunk.

Is Rat's birthday celebration for Bear all wet?

But the party is not a washout after all, in David McPhail's latest in series, Big Brown Bear's Birthday Surprise (reader) (Green Light Readers Level 2) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018). Back on the bank, Rat's hamper is still high and dry, and inside is his gift, a BALL. He presents it to Big Brown Bear apologetically.

"It's not much of a present. Not compared to a boat," said Rat.

"Boats are all right," said Bear. "But they sink."

David McPhail is the unabashed baron of bear stories, and this one in his beginning reader Big Brown Bear series is as sweet and droll as his previous ursine entries. McPhail's unlikely buddies, Big Brown Bear and Rat, are reminiscent of Arnold Lobel's timeless Frog and Toad early readers, and youngsters just venturing into independent reading will enjoy the easy-going back-and-forth dialog, reinforced by artist McPhail's inimitable illustrations that offer clear sight clues for the text.

The first book in this popular beginner series is Big Brown Bear (Green Light Readers Level 1).

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