- The Sniffles for Bear
Tragedy has struck—at least in the opinion of Bear, who languishes with a cold and who “was quite sure no one had ever been as sick as he was.” His friend Mouse, kindly visiting the sick, is determined to lighten Bear’s suffering, but Bear feels such cheering is an imposition (“When someone is dreadfully ill, you sing mournful songs,” he notes reprovingly). Eventually, Mouse helps Bear to bed, where he dictates his will, dozes off, and wakes improved—to find Mouse having come down with the sniffles in turn. This is a particularly fine outing for the established duo: Bear’s comic sad-sack histrionics, couched in his formal phraseology (“Have you no decency?” cries a provoked Bear), and the contrast with Mouse’s perky attempts at assistance deliver bear-sized portions of humor. Since Mouse’s heedless intrusions are sometimes genuinely annoying (a raucous serenade of “She’ll Be Coming ’round the Mountain”), there’s sympathy generated for Bear despite his hypochondria, and Becker is inventive with the details of the comic situational mismatch. Denton’s got a firm hand both on the cozy world of these characters and their playful possibilities, with her watercolor, ink, and gouache art tender in palette (warm, gentle [End Page 70] earth tones touched with coral) and clever in composition (careful geometry of the interior views locks Bear into place until the double-page-spread that focuses on his diagonal, shambling ascent to bed). Really, though, it’s the “acting” that kids will find irresistible here, with an irrepressible Mouse aquiver with attentive helpfulness while a blear-eyed Bear sprawls on couch and bed, obviously defeated by gravity. Kids won’t have to be sniffly themselves to appreciate the sickroom drama, but it could also lighten the burden of those sentenced to whining and high Kleenex use.