Book cover for Five Bears

Five Bears

Ages 3 to 7



23 June 2022
32 pages
Imprint: Macmillan Children's Books


Friendship is at the heart of many picture books for small children. They tend to be more interesting when there is some conflict or difference to overcome — as found with Pooh and pals in the Hundred Acre Wood. The Kate Greenaway Medal-winning author Catherine Rayner (Augustus and His Smile, Solomon Crocodile) has created a beautifully spare new story to slip into that canon, with breathtaking illustrations, also hers.A gentle, on-trend book — no sensitivity readers needed here — which should appeal to children and parents nervous of social situations.
A new book from Greenaway winner Catherine Rayner is always going to be a visual treat and the luminous watercolour and inked images are a delight. As one bear meets another the initial reaction is defensive and even hostile, but Other Bear defuses the situation with calm friendliness and they go on together; each thinking their own thoughts but now moving in the same direction … in a gentle and non-dogmatic fashion, important points are made. There can be a tendency in humans to be wary of difference, but this is a lovely way to demonstrate empathy and will generate lots of discussion and could perhaps help to make a difference to our future generations' attitude toward helping 'stuck bears' all over the world.
When Bear notices another bear while walking, the two bears bond and focus on what each of them has in common. By the end of the story, there are five bears, each unique, and celebrated for their inclusivity and warm-hearted togetherness. Cleverly written to be positive and gender-neutral, this will be a useful text to explore in circle time and PSHE when discussing friendships and how to relate to people who are not the same as us. The artwork is exquisite and we particularly liked ‘Other Bear’ with wild hair, and the recurring and vibrant watercolour collaged leaves.
It is, as it says on the front cover, a book about friendship. It’s also about diversity … It allows the reader to explore the nuances of initial meetings and the fact that outward appearances and rudeness may well mask internal torment. It demonstrates that sometimes the best way to encourage shyness is to simply be pleasant, walk on and give space to catch up when they feel brave enough … Catherine Rayner’s illustrations convey the slow, deliberate movement of bears and a range of expressions across each double page spread. Definitely worthy of a place in Early Years and KS1 classrooms.