Emma Middleton (text), Briony Stewart (illus.), The Bear In Our Backyard, Affirm Press, 27 March 2018, 32pp., $24.99 (pbk) ISBN 9781925584806
This is a lovely read aloud, celebrating family and encouraging good, old-fashioned playtime out in the backyard. Mum sends Tom and big sister Tilly outside to play while she has a rest, reminding them not to make so much noise they wake the bear. The pair play in their cubby house and prepare a picnic lunch – and then they’re noisy. They wake the bear.
Luckily, it’s not a real bear, just their mama bear, inspiring them to imagine and play. She joins them, reminding grown-up readers of the joy to be found playing with our children, sharing our childhood games and joining in new ones.
Western Australian illustrator Briony Stewart creates her pictures with a sense of playfulness and loads of love, using soft hues and expressions of delight. The family play hide-and-seek, hopscotch and hula hoop. And they hug. There’s so much love. Plenty to share.
At the end of the story, the family welcomes a new baby bear, a surprise carefully concealed until the ending.
Queensland author Emma Middleton uses rhyme to give the story a lovely cadence, perfect for bedtime or for preparing young children for a new addition to their family.
The Bear In Our Backyard is the companion book to The Lion In Our Living Room, which celebrates dads.
Reviewed by Carissa Mason