The co-creator of the best-selling Ladybug Girl series brings readers an entertaining tale of sibling camaraderie, starring three bears who live by the sea. Their story, a classic hero’s journey (home, adventure and home again), is one of excitement, danger, a little bit of mischief and lots of understated humor.

The three bears head out one day after knocking over their mother’s favorite blue seashell. (Naturally, they were after the honey, high on the mantelpiece.) If they can replace the shell, Mama will never know. They set out in a boat, passing other bears and finally meeting a “big, salty” captain of a bear, who tells them they’ll find what they’re looking for—but only if they look in the right place. He describes a faraway island, shaped like a “lumpy hat,” so that’s where the siblings go.

Even though the bears search the island, the watery world below (look for Soman’s impressive ability to personify an octopus), and nearly every spot on their way there, they are unable to find a beautiful blue shell. Grumpy and argumentative, they head back home. As they step ashore, where a solemn and towering Mama waits, they find a shimmering blue shell. It turns out that home is the “right place,” after all. Mama forgives them, but to keep things from getting too cloying, Soman closes the book with the very funny, matter-of-fact statement that they “didn’t get any dessert.”

Soman’s illustrations, showcasing all the blues and teals of a seafaring journey, are at turns majestic (the churning waters of a storm at sea) and laugh-out-loud funny (searching for seashells on a mountaintop, as a disgruntled ram humors them). Many story elements and illustrations call to mind other classic stories (Where the Wild Things Are and Moby Dick, to name two). This one utterly charms.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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