The Day I Lost My Bear in Cypress Hills: Adventures of the Barnyard Boys
Written by M Larson, Illustrated by Kaustuv Brahmachari
Published by M Larson Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$13.99 ISBN 978-1-7753218-5-9
Melanie Larson’s children’s book, The Day I Lost My Bear in Cypress Hills (Adventures of the Barnyard Boys), is a simply told and colourfully illustrated day-in-the-life story of five-year-old Finn and his family. Finn wakes at his grandparents’ log cabin in Cypress Hills, raring to begin an adventurous day with activities that range from swimming lessons to rock climbing. As the title reveals, the enthusiastic boy loses his treasured “stuffie” during the day, and he “[needs] his bear to sleep!”
The book features large-font text and bright images – the illustrator nailed Cypress Hills, with its distinctive evergreens (including Lodgepole pines) featured on nearly every image. I suggest that this upbeat story be read to and by youngsters for its vibrant celebration of the great outdoors, and its display of how much fun can be had doing things that don’t require anything but an imagination. Particularly now, during a global pandemic, it’s so beneficial for children of all ages to discover how it’s the little things – like going for a walk with one’s family, hot dog roasts, or stargazing – that often provide the most joy and remain in memory.
Finn and his brothers Owen and Dez ride bikes, play in the lake, build sandcastles, and hike: “We collected pine cones, sticks and bugs.” They visit the local museum and see a mounted “cougar, a moose and even a beaver dam”. The protagonist’s beloved bear appears in many of the illustrations, and as a bonus, Larson’s included a pictorial inventory of Cypress Hills’ creatures – both winged and land-based – at the end of the story, and invites readers to find the images in the book.
Larson worked as an Environmental Consultant prior to writing children’s books, and the rural mother of three previously published Count Them! 50 Tractor Troubles, “to help her children learn to count and spell to 50 while learning farm safety”. Her illustrator, Brahmachari, is also an animator – with “many clients from all over the world” – and his large-eyed, expressive characters romp delightfully across the pages in their “fun-filled day!”
The writer and illustrator have teamed to create what any child might consider an ideal summer day, complete with Bubble Gum ice cream. When Finn’s ready to cuddle Bear and “look at the bright stars before bed,” he realizes the bear’s been misplaced somewhere along the way and the search begins. I love how we see bats swooping through the dark between trees, and Finn’s mom holds a protective arm over her head, just as this woman would do. Will the boy ever “hold Bear again”?
Though this well-produced book might be especially prized by anyone who’s visited Saskatchewan’s Cypress Hills, it’s certainly also a story to be enjoyed by young children anywhere. I recommend it for its outdoors and family-positive themes, and the overall cheery tone. I expect that Finn and his brothers will get up to many more adventures in the unique and beautiful southwestern corner of the province. Here’s to that!
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM