Monday, November 28, 2022

The Best Gift for Bear written and illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

The Best Gift for Bear
written and illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
Two Lions/Amazon, 2022, 40 pages
The holiday season is the perfect time to show your appreciation to friends and family for all the times they were there for you throughout the year. And that is just what Hedgehog is busy doing. She's been busy baking all kinds of special cookies for her friends. There are snowflakes for the mice, trees for the squirrels, and special rabbit cookies for each of the rabbits. But what about Bear?

Hedgehog is at a total loss about what to bake for Bear. After all, it was Bear who taught her how to ice skate, but ice skate cookies just don't feel right.
Bear loves butterflies and sunflowers, but even though they are lovely, some butterfly or sunflower cookies just don't feel right for Bear, either. But then snow on the roof of her little house gives Hedgehog the perfect idea. So, she plans it and bakes it and puts it together with frosting - the perfect gingerbread house for a special friend. It even has a bear cookie standing proudly in front of the house, along with sunflowers growing and a butterfly flying.

It is so big and so heavy, though, Hedgehog can't possibly carry it all the way across the forest to Bear's house. Instead, she decides to load it onto a sled and pull it to Bear's. 
The only problem is that then snow and a whipping wind begins to blow and the next thing she knows her perfect gift has been blown to pieces. Just then, Bear opens his door to see what's going on and is surprised to find a very upset Hedgehog. Bear brings her inside, gives her a warming cup of cocoa and listens as Hedgehog tells him what happened to his special gift. After she finishes her story, Bear has a surprising story of his own - and my young readers definitely did not see his surprise coming. And in the end, they actually give each other the best gift ever - the gift of friendship.

The Best Gift for Bear is just the book to begin the holiday season with. It's all about acceptance, friends, and giving, without any of the commercialism that has evolved around the holiday season. It is a quiet, gentle, heartwarming tale that reminds us of what is really important. I loved that Hedgehog gave gifts that she had made herself - they are real gifts from the heart. And I was really happy to see that the gingerbread cookie recipe is included in the endpapers. Yum, I love gingerbread. Complimenting this heartfelt story are clear, uncluttered illustrations done with gouache and colored pencil in a very definite winter palette.    

This was a story that led to lots of talk about the different holidays my young readers celebrate in their families and because this book doesn't identify the holiday Hedgehog is baking cookies for, it was the ideal book to share with my small class of readers, and perhaps with your young readers as well.

Thank you, Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this book.

 ★“This genuinely heartfelt, quietly moving friendship story emphasizes that ‘a day with a friend is the best gift of all.’” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A sweet, appealing picture book for the season.” —Booklist

A 2022 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee

Jennifer A. Bell is the illustrator of more than forty children’s books, including the Sophie Mouse series. She studied fine art at the Columbus College of Art & Design, and her work can also be found on greeting cards and in magazines. This is the first picture book she’s written and illustrated. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about her at

Instagram: @jbellstudio

Facebook: Jennifer A. Bell Illustration

Twitter: @JenniferABell_

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