With a bouncy rhyme scheme reminiscent of This Is the House That Jack Built, Susan Meyers takes children on a delightful journey of a lost teddy bear in Bear in the Air. As a mother pushes her young son in a stroller along a boardwalk, his beloved teddy bear falls out of sight. Oh, “how Baby cried,” yet the mother continues on her way when she can’t locate the stuffed animal.
The teddy bear is soon found, first by a beagle that tosses him high in the air and leaves him on the sandy shore and then by a wave that pulls him out to sea, where a sailboat captain almost captures him in his net. The bear is not long lost again when a seal finds him, plays with him deep in the ocean and deposits him in some seaweed, where he is scooped up by a pelican and flown higher than he’s ever been before. He doesn’t enjoy his ride long before a breeze causes the bird to sneeze and send him tumbling back to the ground, where a lady scoops him up and hangs him to dry on her clothesline. “Along came Baby—what a surprise!/ Mother could scarcely believe her own eyes,” when the two spot the flapping bear as they finish their walk.
Bringing the jaunty rhymes to life are Amy Bates’ endearing pencil-and-watercolor illustrations in soft, seaside blues, greens and golds. She makes the baby and bear equally adorable with similar sizes, stances and big round eyes. Out on his own, the teddy bear’s expressions reflect his new experiences, from surprise at playing underwater with a seal, to curiosity at the fish that look at him, to fear from falling from the sky, then finally joy when reunited with his boy. Although the little boy and his mother never know about the bear’s action-packed journey, a tiny crab follows him everywhere, reminding readers of the bear’s secret adventures. An illustrated map at the end allows children and their parents to recap all of the escapades.
While Bates’ artwork reflects an earlier era through the clothing, the baby buggy and boardwalk vendors, it also reflects the timeless love that develops generation after generation between children and their teddy bears. Children will relish Bear in the Air for its summertime excitement with a happy conclusion. Adults will enjoy reminiscing about their own childhood keepsakes and sharing them with the next generation of teddy bear huggers.
Angela Leeper still has her first teddy bear in the attic of her Richmond, Virginia home.