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Top 100 Picture Books #83: Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

#83 Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman (2002)
24 points

A perfect blend of story, catchy poetry, and cute pictures. – Libby Gorman

Sometimes I wonder if Karma Wilson has ever regretted not giving Bear a name.  Considering how hugely popular this book became and the numerous sequels that were to follow, the fact that the hero is known only by his species and not by a catchy name like Bernard or Baskin maybe means that the book remains just a tiny bit more obscure than it would be otherwise.  Not that I should really worry.  Coming in at #83 I can attest that in my library system copies of Bear Snores On fly off the shelves with surprising speed.  Its future may well be assured.

Publishers Weekly describes the plot as, “The title also serves as the book’s refrain: because he’s hibernating, the fluffy, snoring Bear remains oblivious as Mouse, Hare, Badger, Mole, Wren and Raven seek refuge in his cave from the blowing snow and frigid temperatures. Working in soft-textured acrylics, Chapman (Happy and Honey) makes both the biting weather and the warm, womb-like shelter of Bear’s cave palpable. The once bedraggled animals perk up considerably, and first-time author Wilson describes the ensuing high spirits with a musical flair: ‘They tweet and they titter./ They chat and they chitter./ But the bear snores on.’ There’s a moment of tension when Bear unexpectedly wakes up and the uninvited guests wonder if they’ll be evicted. But Wilson demonstrates how well she knows her audience: the bear only bemoans the fact that he slept through all the fun; the unwitting host proves that he may be the biggest party animal of all.”

Because the book looks at hibernation but with a very young audience in mind, the book ties in rather well with school science units on winter animals and their long winter sleeps?  Indeed on her website Ms. Wilson highlights the book’s various themes, listing them as “Hibernation, Seasons, Bear habitat, Bear Rhyme, rhythm and alliteration, Sharing and Friendship”.

Plenty of awards and honors came its way:

New York Times and Publishers Weekly Bestseller in the picture book category.

• Winner of the  2002 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) -Children’s Resource Gold Award Winner.

• Winner of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Book Award.

• Chosen as a 2003 ALA Notable Book.

• Chosen by Capitol Choices as a 2002 noteworthy book for children under age seven.

• Pointed out as one of ten highly commended titles in Charlotte Zolotow picture book awards.

• An IRA (International Reading Association) Children’s Book of the Year finalist and is on the IRA notable children’s book list for 2003.

• Bear Snores On was the winner of 2004 Great Lakes’ Great Books Award

SLJ starred and said of it, “The descriptive rhyming text, reminiscent of Bill Martin, Jr.’s Listen to the Rain (Holt, 1988), is perfect for reading aloud as well as for one-on-one sharing. Kids will ask for this book again and again.”

Then Booklist said, “The comfy look of Bear’s cave and the snappy rhythm of the text beckon youngsters into the story, and the expressively drawn, amusingly posed animal characters ensure repeated readings.”

The Horn Book Guide was less than wholly charmed. “The rhyming text is forced at times, but the vibrant acrylic paintings are engaging.”

Anyway, Kirkus disagreed. “The delightful illustrations on over-sized pages depicting the animals’ party are the perfect accompaniment to the lyrical text. Little ones will snuggle into bed on a snowy night to hear this one.”

And you can watch a little of the Weston Woods video version:

And this is Karma’s favorite spread in the book:

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. What an honour to be included on the list- hooray! I loved Karma’s text from the first moment, and I’m so glad to have been chosen to illustrate this book.

    My favourite picture is the single page of Mouse warming his paws by the fire. I painted this in our studio overlooking the cowshed at a friend’s farm (in a hazy blur because I had just had my first baby)!

  2. Meredith says:

    I love this book! I have used it in storytime more times than I care to count.


  1. […] I paired this one with perennial classics Bear Snores On and The Napping House (a whole bedtime theme!) and added a dose of bedtime music. You can pick your […]