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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Page history last edited by debrasantorini 10 years, 6 months ago

Plot Summary

      Michael Rosen (British author of Hard-boiled Eggs, Little Rabbit Foo Foo, and Sad Book) teamed up with British illustrator, Helen Oxenbury (illustrator of Big Momma Makes the World, Adventures in Wonderland) to create a book for children that is captivating and promotes reading (Rosen & Helen Oxenbury – Author Profile and Information & Video at Simon & Schuster).   We’re Going on a Bear Hunt fills the entire board book with the imaginative story about a family on the hunt for a bear. This cover-to-cover picture book alternates (starting with the cover) from a color spread to a black-and-white spread until the climax – when the family actually finds the bear they have been looking for and the genre transitions from contemporary fiction to fantasy.  (Up until the bear scene, all they events are plausible.  However, the idea that an entire family could outrun a bear is quite unbelievable.)  Throughout the journey to find the bear and the race back home the father is leading the bunch – and implicit metaphor for the type of relationship parents have with their children...children do not have a choice but to follow their parents, who inevitable mold their children’s personalities.


Textual Elements

     The pattern created by the black-and-white and colored spreads makes this book very predictable for new readers (Galda).  The black-and-white pages repeat: “We’re going on a bear hunt.  We’re going to catch a big one.  What a beautiful day!  We’re not scared.  Oh-oh! … (obstacle)…We can’t go over it.  We can’t go under it.  Oh, no!  We’ve got to go through it!”  And the colored pages show the sounds of whatever activity the previous page was talking about.  The sounds come two at a time and repeat themselves three times – each time growing larger.  Overall, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt beautifully illustrates the appeal of adventure as well as the truth about consequences.


Artistic Elements 



We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, uses a variety of artistic elements in order to achieve a highly impressionistic piece of literature.  Some of these elements remain as follows:


The illustrations are painted in watercolor, both in full color and black and white, in order to create a more impressionistic feel.  The black and white pages contain the repetitive lines of the story, telling, as well as showing, the reader the landform they are approaching, but refusing to give the reader the full impressionistic impact until the consecutive page, where rich, descriptive language, as well as full color, is used to describe and illustrate the sounds and movements relating to the obstacle they are heading through.  At first, the colors used are light and airy, giving a whimsical, carefree feel to the story.  As the story progresses, the colors get deeper and darker, giving a more frightening, foreboding feel to the text as the adventurers draw nearer to the bear cave. 



The illustrations are full bleed, double-page spreads.  This evokes the feeling of the characters traveling through a vast, new frontier.  The characters are splayed out across these pages, always in a row as they follow one another through the settings.  Their facial expressions add to the impressionism of the story, either making the setting seem comfortable, exciting, and fun-filled, or worried, anxious, frightened, or relieved.  Their gestures also help the reader imagine what it would like to be one of the characters in the book.  For instance, while the adventurers are traveling through the “swirling, whirling, snowstorm”, their arms are held tightly around themselves.  When they are traveling through “long, wavy grass”, their arms are held out to feel the blades of grass in a lighthearted spirit.  In the same way, while the travelers are venturing into the bear cave, frightened and anxious, they are holding hands, have arms wrapped around each other, as if in caution.






The text is placed on the pages in a repetitive manner throughout the book.  The black and white pages with the main chant always have the text positioned in the top left and right corners, with the phrase, “Oh , no!  We’ve got to go through it!” in the bottom right hand corner.   However, on the pages with the descriptive language, the words are set in a text box, with the text (set in Veronan Light Education) growing larger as the lines repeat (as seen in the page illustrated with the words, “Stumble trip!”.  This pattern ensues until the adventurers discover the bear in his page.  The illustrator then does a great job presenting the family running away from the bear, back through all of the previous scenes (in reverse order of course), with all of these scenes in their own boxes on the pages, until finally, their reach their warm, safe bed which brings the story back to the full bleed, double page spread the we start out with.  The words, “We’re not going on a bear hunt again,” are presented in a very large font at the end, providing emphasis for the reader.  Finally, on the last double-page spread, we see the bear going home, head down, back to his cave after failing to catch the adventurers who aroused him from his home.  This offers relief for children reading the book, the quality of being able to feel the bear’s disappointment, as well as a somewhat humorous personification of what a bear might feel like if he missed out on the opportunity of catching the adventurers.



The above artistic elements provide for a story with an impressionistic and adventurous quality that has been loved for many years.


Analysis and Critique





Rosen, Michael. We're Going on a Bear Hunt. Illus. Illustrator Helen Oxenbury. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1989.



Galda, Lee, and Bernice E. Cullinan. Literature and the child. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2006. Print.


"Helen Oxenbury – Author Profile and Information & Video at Simon & Schuster." Author Interviews & Appearances, Authors In the News & More – Simon & Schuster. Web. 28 July 2009.  



Rosen, Michael. :: Michael Rosen - The Website ::. Web. 28 July 2009. <http://www.michaelrosen.co.uk/about.html>.

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