Little Bear

8 March 2018

Little Bear
Written by Elaine Sharfe, Illustrated by Karen Sim
Published by YNWP
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$9.95 ISBN 9-781988-783086

Do you remember being a child and wishing you were a teenager? I sure do. I was particularly envious of a teenager named Cindy, who carried Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum in her handbag, and whose long, blonde hair swished when she walked. I wanted to grow up and have a handbag, a purse, and hair that reached to my waist, too!

Saskatoon writer Elaine Sharfe’s growing collection of illustrated children’s books now includes a story about a cute bear cub who can’t wait to grow up and really ROAR! Sharfe’s figured out the formula for creating stories that the youngest children will want to read–or have read to them–time and again, and Karen Sim’s illustrations–full bleeds on every other page–are a perfect complement to the text of Little Bear.

Using the Rule of Threes re: repetition, we journey along with Little Bear, the book’s impatient star, as he wakes up each day and asks his mother “Am I Big Bear yet?” Little Bear encounters three friends–each a different species–and, as it’s taking too long to become Big Bear, he asks “Can I be like you instead?” When he learns what it takes to be an owl, a rabbit, and a fish–and realizes he can’t manage it–he feels defeated. “Just then Little Bear heard his mother calling.”

“Little Bear, Little Bear. It’s time for our winter sleep.”

Older readers will understand what’s happening as the bears crawl into their cozy cave and cuddle up. Upon waking, Little Bear learns he’s changed over the passing months, and he returns to visit each of his friends, delightedly asking each of them, “Did you hear that?”

This is a story a child could easily memorize. It could also become a first (and treasured) reader. In the book’s endnotes we learn that Sharfe’s children’s books are actually “refined versions of stories she told her children and grandchildren when they were young”. The glossy softcover should hold up well in little hands, and the large black type centered on a white background is easy on older eyes.

Sim’s artistic talent shines on every page. The Vancouver Island-based artist and designer works in various media, including digital media, oil pastel, and graphite and ink. She manages to evoke curiosity, fear, excitement and love through the endearing expressions of these animal characters. To view her fine and varied work, see

Sharfe previously impressed me with her book My Good Friend, Grandpa. She has also written There’s a Dinosaur in My Room. The lesson in her latest book is that age-old one: All good things come to those who wait. Who can’t relate? As the mother of two now-adults, I can remember when they too looked forward to the next birthday, and the next … each birthday cake a milestone affording them greater liberties and more independence.

As for this once impatient child, I did get the handbag, the hair, and the gum, though Juicy Fruit was my flavour of choice.


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