Scaring versus sharing


Let’s Scare Bear

By Yuko Katakawa (New York: Holiday House, 2019, 40 pp., $17.99, hardcover)

“Let’s Scare Bear,” based on a classic Japanese rakugo (comic storytelling) tale, is a funny, entertaining story with a surprise ending and an important lesson for young readers.
Mouse, Fox, Spider and Snake love manju, a Japanese sweet. The four friends are just about to sit down to a manju feast when Bear comes thumping by. Bear is the strongest animal in the forest. Tiny Mouse gets the idea to scare Bear, the others animals agree, and unsuccessful attempts at scaring Bear ensue. Bear laughs at their attempts to trick him and lets them in on the one thing he fears most: manju. When Bear shares this information, Mouse, Fox, Spider and Snake try one last time to scare Bear by pitching and volleying manju into Bear’s cave, but Bear is the one who gets the last laugh.
Yuko Katakawa’s debut book has animal characters that are cute and expressive. When Bear walks by Mouse’s house during the manju feast, Mouse, Fox, Spider and Snake look as though they’re experiencing an earthquake. Mouse is tumbling backward with his tea spilling and Snake is holding onto his manju for dear life. Spider does not speak in the story, but Katakawa has Spider communicate by weaving words in her web, such as “help” and “good idea.” This attests to her expertise as an illustrator with a background in digital media.
By sharing her love of rakugo, Katakawa has created a humorous, engaging book for young children. It is also a fantastic choice for reading aloud and acting out parts of the story where the animal friends try to scare Bear. “Let’s Scare Bear” reminds readers that rather than trying to have fun by scaring others, it might be more fun to share with others. What a valuable lesson!

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