Biased Toward Bears

Posted on 18/05/2012 by


I read this book last Friday. It was very distressing. It’s called, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury).

You know the song. Or maybe you don’t. This is an interpretation on the version you’re familiar with (if you’re familiar with it). But it’s still a pretty dopey song, so I was just sort of skimming through as the family traipses through trials and tribulations on their search for a bear. They weren’t carrying weapons or trapping tools or anything so I gave the whole ‘bear hunt’ thing a pass and decided they weren’t being actively malevolent, which meant I was happy if a little bored right up until they found the bear.

In the nature of the song, having achieved their goal they panic and rabbit back the way they came, through the fields and the snowstorm and what have you, until they get home.

family running into house and up stairs, through the door they've left open you can see the bear carefully opening the gate - image from "We're Going on a Bear Hunt"

This was the bit I liked. They ran inside, up the stairs… realised they’d forgotten to close the door, ran back down, shut and locked the door. And then went and hid under the blankets in their bed and declared they were never going on a bear hunt again.

Fine as far as it goes, even if the entire family responded to the situation like they were four years old. I can respect that. Plus, forgetting to shut the door: hilarious.

The problem is how the book ends — an ending that I had begun to have a bad feeling about from the moment they saw the bear. See, the bear didn’t look angry, the bear didn’t look mean. (And okay, yes, I’m biased toward bears, but still.) The bear followed them back through the fields and the snowstorm and what have you — not chased, followed — all the way to their house where they slammed the door in its face.

And they went and jumped in a friendly pile on the bed, laughing and smiling, and declaring they were never going on a bear hunt again.

The last page has no text. Perhaps because bears don’t have language to make songs. The last page just has the bear. Alone.

sad bear alone by the sea shore - image from "We're Going on a Bear Hunt"

I love children’s books where there’s a secondary story in the pictures. This one’s especially interesting cause I’m not actually sure if they’re trying to be subversive or not. It’s possible that interpretation is just me (biased toward bears). But I don’t think it is.

Either way. It was so sad I kind of wanted to buy the book just so the bear wasn’t alone anymore.


Posted in: Kandace