Can Bears Ski?
Is Little Bear ignoring his friends when they say hi, or is something else going on? A discovery opens new doors in a tale that will delight kids with deafness and all children learning to navigate their world.
Little Bear feels the world around him. He feels his bed rumble when Dad Bear wakes him up in the morning. He feels the floor shake when his teacher stomps to get his attention. But something else is missing, like when his friends tell jokes that he isn’t sure he understands, or when all around him Little Bear hears the question, “Can bears ski?” Then, one day, Dad Bear takes him to see an “aud-i-olo-gist,” and Little Bear learns that he has been experiencing deafness and will start wearing hearing aids. Soon he figures out what that puzzling refrain is: “Can you hear me?” Little Bear’s new world is LOUD and will take some getting used to, but with the love and support of Dad Bear, he will find his way. In this lyrical picture book, award-winning creators Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar draw on their own experiences to tell Bear’s story.
Raymond Antrobus is a deaf poet and teacher. He has won the Ted Hughes Award and became the first poet to be awarded the Rathbones Folio Prize. About Can Bears Ski, his first picture book, he says, "It's the book I could see myself reaching for as a child, and I can't wait to have it exist in the world." Originally from London, Raymond Antrobus now lives in Oklahoma City.
Polly Dunbar is a partially deaf author-illustrator who has created several books for young children. Her works include Penguin, Hello Tilly, Pretty Pru, Good Night, Tiptoe, and A Lion Is a Lion. She is also the illustrator of Pat-a-Cake Baby and Here's a Little Poem, among other titles. She lives in England.
As with many picture books addressing specific issues, the main audience for this book will be children with a similar experience, who will surely delight in seeing the little bear wearing their hearing aids and learning to navigate the world. However, all young readers will enjoy figuring out just what “Can bears ski?” is supposed to mean and will benefit from learning about being hard of hearing, including how to talk to a hard-of-hearing person. Gently and thoughtfully teaches about being a hard-of-hearing kid.
The book realistically avoids a magic wand approach and acknowledges the cognitive strain of working to hear people (and the normal kid strain of having to keep track of small, easy-to-misplace devices). Dunbar’s digital art recalls the work of Laura Vaccaro Seeger in its sturdy coziness, and the love between Dad and child is evident in every shared scene. This would be a useful partner to those books about kids learning they need glasses, and it would also help ease the way of youngsters going the hearing aid route.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
#OwnVoices creators Antrobus and Dunbar have lovingly crafted a picture book that addresses not just the often-frustrating process of diagnosing a disability but the exhaustion that accompanies living with one. Dunbar’s strong-lined and loudly colored art easily translates Little Bear’s emotional journey for a young audience, making this an excellent mirrors-and-windows pick, especially for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and likely won’t have seen themselves portrayed so clearly before.
Bear’s home is loud—full of Dad Bear’s rumbling, shaking, and trembling—and Bear enjoys the commotion. Perplexingly, though, Dad and everyone else seems to keep asking him, "Can bears ski?" Bear brushes it off—until one day Dad Bear takes our young narrator to meet an "au-di-ol-o-gist." What follows is a thoughtful sequence that illustrates what a visit to an audiologist might look like. . . . Warm tones softly illuminate the story, punctuated by bold primary colors, in this compassionately told book.
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