Bear's Picture


A bear wants to paint a picture, and so he does; however, two fine, proper gentlemen don’t think that it is a very fine picture at all. But just because they don’t see what the bear sees doesn’t make it a bad picture, right? Daniel Pinkwater turns art (and art critics) upside down in this classic tale, now beautifully reillustrated by D. B. Johnson.

A bear continues to paint what he likes despite criticism from two passing ...

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A bear wants to paint a picture, and so he does; however, two fine, proper gentlemen don’t think that it is a very fine picture at all. But just because they don’t see what the bear sees doesn’t make it a bad picture, right? Daniel Pinkwater turns art (and art critics) upside down in this classic tale, now beautifully reillustrated by D. B. Johnson.

A bear continues to paint what he likes despite criticism from two passing gentlemen.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] quirky, sardonic and highly entertaining view of what makes art." Booklist starred, Feb 1 2008 Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Bear makes a grand champion for all young wouldn't hurt for certain grown-ups to hear this message." Kirkus 3/15/08 Kirkus Reviews

"Imaginative illustrations from a notable ursine stylist… lend pizzazz to this reillustrated 1972 bear-centric tale." Publishers Weekly, starred, 1/21/08 Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Children whose creative efforts have been thwarted will… empathize with this paw-on-hip, nose-in-the-air bear who exudes confidence." SLJ April 2008

School Library Journal

"Pinkwater's text has an abstract… tone...subtextual eye-rolling at the...prejudgment of the critics will put kids happily on the bear's side." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

". . . this aritst bear, broad-beamed and loveable, won't be stopped. 'It is MY picture,' he says, and a splendid one it is." The Chicago Tribune

Publishers Weekly

Imaginative illustrations from a notable ursine stylist, Johnson (Henry Hikes to Fitchburg), lend pizzazz to this reillustrated 1972 bear-centric tale from Pinkwater, author of the Larry polar bear series. Bear, depicted in speckled charcoal with a sky-blue glint in his eyes, is painting a picture in rainbow hues. As Bear paints, "two fine, proper gentlemen" in natty attire stroll by and comment on his work. "Bears can't paint pictures," they sniff. "Nobody can tell what it is supposed to be." Bear, "mixing just the right kind of yellow," calmly contradicts them and keeps painting. Through the "gentlemen's" patronizing dialogue, Pinkwater conjures sympathy for the childlike yet confident Bear. Johnson borrows Jon Agee's upright style for the men's pointy noses and broad comic gestures, reinforcing the words with sly visual details. When Bear asserts that his abstract piece depicts a tree by a stream, Johnson pictures the flustered critics sinking into the water within the image so that only their distinctive hats remain, while the action of the grayscale-tinted characters is made to complement the still painting's energetic palette. Readers who follow the lead of curving type and invert the book see a multicolored bear's face in the finished painting, aptly concluding this paean to self-expression. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Ken and Sylvia Marantz
With amusing scrutiny, Pinkwater examines the roles of artist and art critic. When his protagonist, a bear, decides to paint a picture, two "fine, proper gentlemen" passing by tell him that bears cannot possibly paint pictures. Challenged, they continue, declaring his to be a silly picture, because nobody can tell what it is supposed to be. Bear replies that he can tell, as he carefully paints away. The gentlemen attempt to name what they think may be in the painting, but the bear tells them that they are wrong. When he describes what he has painted, they claim that it does not look like that to them. "It doesn't have to," says the artist. "It is MY picture." And he is happy. The three characters are gray, stylized paper sculptures. The critics are formally attired, while the bear has a paint-spattered scarf around his neck and sparkling blue eyes. The visual story contains only these three characters and the gradually evolving painting, as the bear dips his brush into the scattered paint jars. Some leaves and a log-like form, perhaps a purple tree trunk, appear amid the multi-hued, swirling shapes. Eventually, the happy bear is shown napping in the log. The story stimulates valid questions about the nature of art and is great fun. Reviewer: Ken and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

K-Gr 3- A newly illustrated edition of a 1972 title. A bear is engaged in painting a picture when two gentlemen arrive and announce, "Bears can't paint pictures." They have no satisfactory explanation for their opinion, and the bear continues with his work, firm in his conviction that "a bear can do anything he likes." The men then disparage the picture, calling it silly because they can't tell what the abstract painting represents. But to the bear, it is all the things he loves: a honey tree, a cold stream, a log filled with leaves, a field of flowers. The men don't see any of those things, but, according to the bear, they don't have to. It is his painting. Johnson's signature geometrically shaped figures are rendered in different shades of gray on pale gray ground. The only color appears in the bear's painting and paint jars and, as he progresses with his work, splotches of color appear outside the picture and on his scarf. The two featureless gentlemen are opposites: one tall and thin and sporting glasses, a top hat, bow tie, gloves, spats, and cane; the other short and squat, wearing a bowler hat and cape. Children whose creative efforts have been thwarted will especially empathize with this paw-on-hip, nose-in-the-air bear who exudes confidence. The reasons for the two men gradually disappearing into his picture should spark lively discussion. Peter Catalanotto's Emily's Art (S & S, 2001) is the story of another misunderstood young artist.-Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT

Kirkus Reviews
Pinkwater's terse 1972 tale of an ursine painter who stoutly defends his right to create against the sneers of two critics ("fine, proper gentlemen," as the text has it) gets a major visual boost from new illustrations in this reissue. The text has been very slightly massaged, and big cubist scenes replace the author's original small, almost minimalist paintings. Now the bear (wearing an increasingly spattered scarf) and his exaggeratedly dapper tormentors appear in grayscale around a bright semi-abstract canvas that develops, as pages turn, from a hazy smudge of blues and oranges into a lyrical evocation of leaves and water around a cozy hollow log. At the end, the text states only that the two critics leave muttering "Bears are not the sort of fellows to paint pictures," but Johnson depicts them sinking into the picture's stream until only their hats are left as part of the composition-a harsher but perhaps more just judgment on their prejudices. Bear makes a grand champion for all young artists, and it wouldn't hurt for certain grown-ups to hear his message, either. (Picture book. 5-8, adult)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618759231
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/21/2008
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Pinkwater ives with his wife, the illustrator and novelist Jill Pinkwater, and several dogs and cats in a very old farmhouse in New York's Hudson River Valley.

D. B. Johnson has been a freelance illustrator for more than twenty years and has done editorial cartoons, comic strips, and conceptual illustrations for magazines and newspapers around the country. Mr. Johnson’s first picture book, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, was a New York Times bestseller and a Publishers Weekly bestseller, as well as an American Bookseller “Pick of the Lists.” Henry Hikes to Fitchburg also won numerous awards, including the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Picture Books and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. Mr. Johnson and his wife, Linda, live in New Hampshire. Visit his website at!

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