Five Bears

Catherine Rayner

Illustrated by Catherine Rayner

Ages 3 to 7
23 June 2022
13 pages


A gorgeously illustrated book about friendship and looking past differences from the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal winner Catherine Rayner.

Bear is walking through the forest, minding his own business when he comes across another bear. The Other bear is different. The two bears wander along, thinking different thoughts, and looking in different directions. Soon the two bears come across another bear and then another bear and eventually find a bear stuck in a tree. The Bears realise that perhaps they aren't that different after all and perhaps they could be friends? Five Bears is a tale of friendship and acceptance perfect for little ones.

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.