Bear Outside

h1 May 6th, 2021 by jules

“I take care of Bear, and Bear takes care of me.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


Children like to imagine what animal they might be if they could tranform themselves. Their responses can tell you a lot about their personalities — or even their state of mind. Jane Yolen’s Bear Outside (Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, March 2021), illustrated by Jen Corace, is an intriguing take on this very notion — yet takes the idea even further. The book opens with: “Some folks have a lion inside, or a tiger. Not me.” And our narrator? It’s a child who wears “my bear on the outside. It’s like wearing a suit of armor. She keeps out the howls, the growls. She keeps me safe.”

Corace illustrates the child with a large, red-cheeked bear enveloping her. She moves with the girl, cushioning and protecting her (though in some spreads, as well as on the cover, Bear is separate from the girl.) The girl even speaks of “wearing” Bear. When she does something scary, she knows she is “in charge” with her inner — er, outer! — bear safeguarding her. They take care of each other, she notes; there is that mutual consideration, love, and respect. (Here, pictured above, Corace shows the two of them touching foreheads, with the girl’s arms up and out to embrace Bear.) Sometimes they don’t even agree, we read, but they are still a team. Bear — and by extension, the child — contains multitudes: She not only keeps the girl safe, but she also assists her during moments of shyness, thereby boosting her confidence, and (since they don’t always agree) she encourages the girl to try new things.

It’s a multilayered look — with Yolen’s spare, gently flowing text and Corace’s crisp-lined, richly colored gouache illustrations — at the notion of an inner self, a story evidently inspired by one of Corace’s portraits of a girl surrounded by a bear. It’s a book that inhabits a tremendous respect for the interior lives of children.

Here are some spreads. …


“I wear my bear on the outside. It’s like wearing a suit of armor.
She keeps out the howls, the growls. She keeps me safe.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“I can wear my bear anywhere — schoolroom …”
(Click spread to enlarge)



Two images above: Click either image to see spread in its entirety


(Click cover to enlarge)


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BEAR OUTSIDE. Text copyright © 2021 by Jane Yolen. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Jen Corace and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Neal Porter Books / Holiday House, New York.

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