Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When something arrives in a brown paper bag one day for a boy named James, everyone is anxious to see what it contains. Despite clues to the contrary ("long soft ears and a nice round tummy"), stuffed toy Elephant and Winston the puppy suspect that it might be a "terrible fierce pouncer." Fortunately, Bear, who "was very old, and knew almost everything," and whose paw "had the comforting smell of muffins and cocoa," settles the question by coaxing the new toy out, whereupon it is warmly welcomed into James's coterie. Isherwood's fluid prose is keenly attuned to the picture book formatshe makes every word count, and the outcome is a perfectly balanced, perfectly paced story. In a felicitous marriage of art and text, first-time illustrator Reed's radiant watercolors set off the tale like a Tiffany setting displays a gem, and he expertly captures Isherwood's vision of a place where the line between fantasy and reality is blurred, the sort of place occupied by Jane Hissey's Old Bear series. The cozy world that the story and the warmly lit artwork portray is one that readers will eagerly enter time and again. Ages 4-8. (May)
School Library Journal
PreS-K-A warm, sentimental story about a child's friendship with his toys. When a brown paper bag arrives on the doorstep marked "Something for James," Elephant's curiosity is peaked. She waits for a glimpse of her towheaded, pint-sized master, and begins to twist open the top of the bag. A pair of big, dark eyes look up at her, but the critter (whatever it is!) will not leave the security of the sack. Elephant goes in search of James and his loyal dog to tell them about the surprise. It seems impossible to encourage the shy "Something" to venture out, till wise old Bear, whose paws "...had the comforting smell of muffins and cocoa," succeeds. The text describes the sequence of events in detail, and the lucid watercolor illustrations are appealing. The book's charm will be best appreciated in a one-on-one setting.-Kathy Mitchell, Gadsden Co. Public Library, Quincy, FL
While James is out walking his dog, a brown paper bag is left on his doorstep. Elephant, a large stuffed animal with spectacles, peeks inside. She sees long soft ears ("Are you a rabbit, dear?" ) and a nice round tummy ("Perhaps you're a puppy, dear" ). James enlists the help of wise old Bear to coax the bag's occupant out, but when the creature finally emerges, no one can quite figure out what it is. Readers won't know either, but everyone is sure to have an opinion about this unusual story. The lifelike watercolors make Elephant and Bear seem as real as James and his dog, and Reed's mystery creature has just enough familiar animal characteristics to provoke lively discussion. A satisfying ending shows James and "Something" snuggling together in a beautiful moonlit bedroom scene.
A mysterious, shy creature arrives in a brown paper bag on toddler James's doorstep. It has big dark eyes and long soft ears and a nice round tummy, but it won't come out, even when it gets a little damp in the pond. The wise old stuffed bear, who has "the comforting smell of muffins and cocoa," is summoned and coaxes Something out and welcomes it with a mug of warm milk. Children will have a wonderful time trying to guess what's in the bag and will hotly debate the identity of Something until it finally appears.
While this gentle episode is reminiscent of the Pooh stories in the way toy animals are characters with distinct personalities and interact with the rosy-cheeked, tousle-headed James, newcomer Reed works in a style that recalls Jane Hissey's Old Bear (1986) and its successors. In his cozy watercolors, sunlight illuminates the warm textures of wood and stone as well as the lushness of an English garden. In the final pages, the entire menagerie is bedded down in James's room, washed in the silvery blue of a full moon. Sweet suspenseeven sweeter reassurance.