Although amiably illustrated and bouncily rhymed, this tall tale ends on a disturbing note when, after a brief separation, a bear skin and its bones are rejoined. At a wooded lake, a bear takes off his skin "To rinse off his bones./ Skipping along came Jezebel Jones." A little girl, Jezebel, climbs into the skin and goes to school, where she realizes she is trapped in the furry brown coat and unable to make any sound but "GRRRRR." Jezebel searches for the rightful owner "In a fox's lair./ In the stall of a mare./ In the hole of a hare who was scared by her stare." Finally, an understanding dog brings to her the bear's bones, which reclaim their exterior. Allen (Two by Two by Two) leaves it to the reader to imagine bones walking outside their skin. He focuses instead on the comic possibilities of the ursine Jezebel, whose wide-eyed friends and family run away in fear. Yet the lightly humorous art contradicts a narrative that borders on grotesque. Grossman (Tommy at the Grocery Store) maintains a folksy tone, but conjures fantasies of a swimming skeleton and an empty animal shapea possibly horrific image for children (who may prefer the three bears to one boneless one). Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
- Susan Hoyle Fournier
An innocent bear trots down to a lake to take a swim. Before he jumps in, he decides to take off his skin so he can rinse off his bones. Just then, along comes curious Jezebel Jones. Deciding to play a trick on her friends at school, she picks up the skin and jumps right in. This is the beginning of a long adventure for Jezebel Jones. To her surprise, her new appearance terrifies her teachers and friends. When she tries to reveal her identity, Jezebel discovers that although she is talking to her friends, all they are hearing is the language of the bear (GRRRR). The loud growling scares them even more. Despite her best attempts at removing the suit, Jezebel realizes she will live life as a bear unless she finds the bones of the rightful owner. What follows is a hilarious quest ending at the zoo. Will this be the place that she is finally understood?
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3--A bear leaves its skin by the side of a lake when he goes for a swim to wash his bones, and when Jezebel comes along and finds it, she can't resist slipping into it. Unable to take it off (only bears can unzip their skins), she seeks help everywhere but can only say, "Grrr." Told in rhyme, the story thumps along until at last, in the zoo, a wise elephant solves the problem for both girl and bear. The layout and juxtaposition of text and pictures are skillful enough and the illustrations do closely follow the text, but the cartoons, done in gouache and pen, make all the characters, even the animals, look alike with ovoid goggle eyes and open mouths. When children tell each other stories, they often come up with outlandish and slightly gruesome ideas, and this tale has the earmarks of a story that a child might invent. Unfortunately, here it comes across as silly and somewhat disturbing.--Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY
As Grossman (The Banging Book, 1995, etc.) would have it, when a bear hops out of his skin to go snorkeling, Jezebel jumps in, and creates mayhem when people take her for a real grizzly. She scares her class and her mom, and then is dismayed to find that only the bear can unzip the suit. Luckily, the zoo animals see her own eyes peering from inside the bear's throat, and know she's an impostor. An elephant and a little dog help retrieve the bear's bones and free Jezebel. The rhyme starts out catchy, but sags in the middle, along with the plot. What works best here is the eccentric idea of a bear's bones taking a dip; Allen doesn't really explore this in the illustrations, which show a jumble of bones that looks like something the dog dug up, rather than a skinless bear who has been snorkeling.