Bill Harley,
illustrated by Melissa Ferreira,
Bear's All-Night Party
(August House/Little Folks, 2001)

Bear decides to have a party to celebrate the full moon, but the other forest animals are resistant. Bear's own brother doesn't think it will work, his best friend Moose thinks it's an impractical idea, and the bees, grasshoppers and crickets tell him "Buzz off." But Bear is not too easily daunted, and he decides that he will have his party even if he is the only one present. "You never know what might happen," he says.

The sun sets, the moon rises and Bear starts dancing and singing the song he made up. Then a den full of fox kits escape their exasperated Dad Fox to join in the festivities. Soon all the other animals are attracted to the party. Moose, the birds and the crickets provide backup vocals to Bear's song, and even the moon gets into the act as the party continues far into the night.

Harley is a professional storyteller and musician with a keen ear for rhythm and pace, and while the original music for Bear's song is not printed in the book, the words suggest a melody on their own. The tale is simple, strong and well told, and it begs to be read aloud, especially if you can organize your listeners into singing backup themselves.

Ferreira's acrylic paintings capture the essence of the story well, and her use of exaggerated perspectives make the animals appealing without being too cutesy-cuddly. The scenes are packed full of fluid movement and nifty detail, with Van Gogh-like brushwork. Ferreira uses a dark vibrant palette and while this choice is both appropriate and effective, at times the illustrations verge on too dark. Happily, this is not a major flaw. The only real quibble I have is that the moon is described twice as a "golden balloon" but the paintings do not really reflect that description.

Pick this one up to read to a roomful of friends and family, but if you find yourself alone, start reading it out loud anyway and see if you can get your own party going. After all -- you never know what might happen.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 27 October 2001

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