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Jack the Bear
by Christina Leist
AGES: 3 to 7
SIZE: 10.25" x 9.5"
PRICES: US $16.95, Cdn $17.95
HARDCOVER: 978-1-894965-97-2

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One beautiful day, while Nosy Fox is strolling through the forest, he spies a bear he's never seen before. When he asks Brainy Owl who the bear is and what it's doing, Nosy Fox finds out that the bear is named Jack and is making the world a better place. Nosy Fox has a difficult time believing that Jack is doing such a thing, especially since all the bear has is a smile and a jar of honey. 

Although Nosy Fox insists that monarchs and government officials, scientists and peace prize winners, philosophers and hard-working citizens all have more authority and responsibility in making the world a better place, Brainy Owl points out that what those people can do is actually limited--and so, they all need Jack's help.

The story is fun to read, while it also teaches us an important lesson in a gentle and humorous way. The narrative is told with simple text and is able to convey complex terms and ideas in a way that is easily accessible to younger readers and listeners. The conversation between Nosy Fox and Brainy Owl is engaging, particularly as Nosy Fox, along with the reader, seeks to understand the mystery that is Jack the Bear. 

Leist's illustrations are masterful and unique, overflowing with playfulness and rick in detail and texture. With recycled paper shopping bags standing in for the canvases, she uses a variety of other tools, including watercolours, crayons, ballpoint pens, markers and pencils. She also makes use of leaf and twig rubbings; and children will have fun looking for evidence of these rubbings, as well as evidence of handles and fold-lines in the bags and of what parts of the shopping bags are being used. 

Thematic Links: Remembrance Day - Peace; Social Responsibility - Taking Care of Others; Friendship; Social Responsibility - Reusing Materials; Art - Reusing Objects/ Using Found Objects


Storytime Standouts!

"When an unfamiliar bear appears in his forest, Nosy Fox is immediately curious. Nosy asks Brainy Owl about the stranger and is unimpressed when Nosy says that Jack the Bear is making the world a better place. As Nosy and Brainy observe the stranger from a distance, Brainy answers the fo's questions and encourages him to reconsider his assumptions about who can make a difference. The world is awfully big, af ter all, and there are many ways to make it better -- some even involve honey! Jack the Bear is a terrific starting point for discussion about social responsibility." - Carolyn Hart, BC Certified Teacher


Nominated for a 2009 Cybils Award!


CM Magazine Review

Nosy Fox just doesn't get it. Jack the Bear is just sitting there, underneath the shade of an old oak tree, eating his honey with Grumpy Squirrel – and yet, according to Brainy Owl, Bear is making the world a better place. But how could that be? Isn't that the job of kings and queens? Scientists and philosophers?

 In this heart-warming tale about compassion and benevolence, readers learn that a simple act of kindness can go a long way – even if it's as small as putting a smile on someone's face. With all of his wisdom and wit, Brainy Owl tells Nosy Fox that our world is a very big place and that it takes more than just inventions and ideas to make a positive impact on the world. It is the selfless acts of the individual that can serve as the seed of change, and with a little love and goodwill, we can make a worldwide impact, one good deed at a time.

It is an important lesson, and, although it is somewhat ambitious to tackle such an abstract concept within the confines of a 40 page picturebook, Leist does succeed, in the end, at sending home a clear and boiled down message. Along the way, parents may well have to explain what a "philosopher" is, or who the "peace prize winners" are, but in a sense, the book is more of a jumping off point – its final pages should mean the start of a conversation, rather the end. 

The book's playful illustrations were created on recycled paper shopping bags, using a combination of watercolor, crayon, ballpoint pen, marker and pencil. The effect is incredibly organic, with the most delicious textures, folds, and creases – particularly on the book's double-page spreads. Occasionally, you can spy a spot of bold red lettering that reads, "Pull Handles Up Not Out" – a fun little detail that serves to remind us of the book's origins. 
Leist's artwork is both whimsical and spontaneous, featuring a background of beautifully shaped splotches and scribbles that slowly emerge to the eye as leaves and branches and earth and sky. The characters themselves are charming, but not in a "cutesy" sort of way – they are quirky and unusual with wide-eyed gazes and bashful grins. 
For those looking to inspire young children to change the world, this book serves as a good introduction. Certainly, if we all learned to be a little bit like Jack the Bear, who shares his honey, the world would be a much sweeter place.

"A beautiful lesson" - ABC Best Books for Children

"In this charming picture book, Jack the Bear contributes to world peace through the simple gesture of a smile. This special book should be in every home where young children and youthful spirits reside." - Christianne Hayward


Sal's Fiction Addiction

"'That's Jack the Bear,' said Brainy Owl. 'Oh? And what's he doing?' Nosy Fox was, well, nosy. 'He's making the world a better place,' replied Brainy Owl. 'Really?' Nosy Fox smirked. 'He looks like he's just sitting in the shade with a jar of honey.'"

I love the simple message of this lovely, warm book. We CAN all make a difference in someone else's day...we just need to know that we can. My good friend Val and I were just talking about the same thing the other day. There are so many times in our day when a little smile (or sometimes a persistent one) can make another person's day better! It takes so little effort. 

The animals in this book are somewhat grumpy and quite opinionated about Jack's place in the world. They wonder how sitting, smiling and handing out honey can really make the world a better place. After all, isn't that what kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers are meant to do? It seems that Jack can help them, and he can help scientists, peace prize winners and even philosophers when they haven't enough time or energy to meet all the needs of the world. How does Jack Bear do it??? He smiles! Have you got one of those hidden away. Try it on everyone you meet today, and see if you can make the world a better place. I am going to try to do just that. 

The author adds a note about her artwork which states: 'The illustrations in this book were done on recycled paper shopping bags. I used watercolor, crayon, and almost every ballpoint pen, marker, and pencil I could find in my desk's untidy drawers.' They work brilliantly to give this book its glowing warm feeling.


Review from 50 Good Deeds

My teacher friend Nadia put me on to a pretty picture book about making the world a better place through good deeds. “It’s so simply written, and the message is huge!” she wrote to me. So of course I had to see a copy for myself, and looked forward to the arrival of Jack the Bear in the mail. It was a sweet read. Vancouver author and illustrator Christina Leist uses her animal characters, with some beautiful drawings made on recycled paper shopping bags, to convey to kids the power of a small act of kindness.

What made her an ambassador for the cause? “When I first came to Vancouver – I am originally from Germany – I was impressed by how nice people were to me,” Christina says. “Cars were stopping for me when I wanted to cross the street, people were apologizing.” (Yep, sounds to me like she found her way to Canada.) How did that motivate her? “I felt respected and cared for as a fellow human being. I wanted to belong to this group of people that made me feel so good, and I started to do the same for other people.”

That’s that chain of kindness we keep obsessing about.

And she decided to write a book for tiny tots. “I want to let the little ones know how simple manifesting positive change can be, that they have an important and powerful tool and never need to feel powerless.”

Christina adds that upcycling used shopping bags for her artwork is another way she sets an example: It doesn’t take much to change the world. Jack the Bear has been shortlisted for the Ontario Blue Spruce Award and the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year award.

So if you’re looking for reading material for the small people in your life, you may make a mighty impression with this little book.