They might be gruff and tough (not to mention rather dangerous) in real life. But when it comes to children’s literature, the bear is arguably the most beloved of all animals.
Who doesn’t adore bumbling Winnie the Pooh or want to hang out with Jungle Book’s Baloo?
There’s an endless choice of tales about these furry friends making it hard to choose favourites. But here are 15 books that every child will love…
1. Paddington by Michael Bond. £6.99 (paperback), HarperCollins Children’s
With his iconic blue coat and love of marmalade sandwiches, Paddington might well be the most British of literary bears – despite being a refugee from deepest, darkest Peru.
The late Michael Bond’s beloved character first appeared in 1958 but this bumbling bear with a heart of gold and his message of tolerance still feels relevant today.
This picture book version, with charming illustrations by R.W. Alley, was adapted from the first two chapters of the original and is the perfect introduction to these classic tales. Available from Amazon
60 facts about Paddington on his 60th birthday
2. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. £6.99 (paperback), Walker
Fed up of reading sugar-coated bedtime stories? Try this black-humoured book about a bear trying to track down his missing hat, which your delighted child will spot long before our hapless detective.
There’s loss, lies, vigilante justice and a sticky end for a sticky-pawed bunny. The deliciously deadpan dialogue and stylish muted colour palette will delight all ages, too. Available from Amazon
Read our review of I Want My Hat Back
3. Grrrrr! by Rob Biddulph. £6.99 (paperback), HarperCollins Children’s
Fred is officially in best bear in the wood – but being the champ comes at a cost. When his prizewinning roar goes missing on the eve of a big competition, our hero learns that having good friends is more important than winning.
With its witty rhyming text, bold illustrations and heartwarming message, Grrrrr! is a book you’ll go back to again and again. Available from Amazon
Read our interview with Rob Biddulph
4. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. £6.99, Walker
Children are natural thrill-seekers and this classic rhyming tale about five siblings setting out to ‘hunt bears’ will appeal to your little one’s spirit of adventure.
It’s a perfect read-out-loud book too, thanks to the repetitive chants, delicious onomatopoeic descriptions of the terrains they traverse and frantic rush home at the end when their ‘prey’ turns ‘hunter’. Available from Amazon
Read our review of We’re Going On A Bear Hunt
5. Big Brown Bear’s Cave by Yuval Zommer. £11.99 (hardback), Templar
Whether it’s too many shoes or too many toys, we can all be guilty of hoarding stuff at the expense of our sanity.
So this lovely story with energetic illustrations about a bear who fills his new cave with possessions, leaving no room for his friends to visit, may ring true for you as much as your child. Available from Amazon
6. The Bumblebear by Nadia Shireen. £6.99 (paperback), Random House
Norman the bear loves honey more than anything so disguises himself as a bee to try and get a taste. But it turns out he makes a pretty good bee and the other pupils at bee school love him – until the discover his cunning plot.
Charming and funny, this is a truly sweet story about friendship that every reception age child in England recently received as part of the BookTrust #timetoread campaign. Praise indeed! Available from Amazon
See which 5 books made our bedtime story list for BookStart #timetoread 2017
7. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle. £7.99 (paperback), Puffin
A simple poem by Bill Martin Jr about different coloured animals is brought vividly to life by the legendary Eric Carle, whose full page collage-style illustrations make it sing.
The book turned 50 earlier this year but there is a timeless quality to the text and images that means generations of children continue to enjoy it. A great read for really little ones, who will delight in the repetition and bold images. Available from Amazon
Read our review of Brown Bear, Brown Bear
8. Peace at Last by Jill Murphy. £6.99 (paperback), Macmillan
Insomnia seems to be a running theme in children’s stories about bears but this book is the original. As the Faithless song goes, Mr Bear can’t get no sleep and to make matters worse, everyone else is snoring like drains. He ends up trailing from room to room to garden, avoiding ticking clocks and buzzing appliances, desperate to get peace at last.
This Jill Murphy classic is both funny and relatable, with lovely dialogue and the cuddliest family of bears that you’ll just want to snuggle up in bed with. Available from Amazon
Here’s why we love Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch
9. The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield. £6.99 (paperback), Frances Lincoln Children’s
This was a first birthday gift for Baby Bookworm and I struggled to read it to him the first time, because it made me cry (in a good way!). The book tells the tale of a bear who finds a piano in the woods and thanks to both passion and dedication, he becomes a virtuoso.
His music brings him many friends and opportunities, but it also takes him away from his home and the thing he loved best of all – just sitting in the woods, tinkling the ivories for pure pleasure. Available from Amazon
Read why this is one of author M.G. Leonard’s favourite five picture books
10. Where Bear? by Sophy Henn. £6.99 (board book), Penguin
A boy has a bear but the realisation dawns that his playmate is too big and bearish to live with him forever. So the pair set off to find him a new home, travelling to the zoo, jungle and toy shop until they finally find where the bear belongs.
With its stunning full page illustrations, each with their own colour theme and lovely refrain of ‘where bear?’, Sophy Henn’s debut picture book is just charming. We love the lesson in the grown-up ending too, with the bear settling down elsewhere but the friends still chatting on the phone. Available from Amazon
11. Hibernation Hotel by John Kelly, illustrated by Laura Brenlla. £7.99 (paperback), Little Tiger Press
They say a change is as good as a rest but when Bear checks into a hotel to try and get some much-craved sleep, he finds the opposite is true. He thinks the comfy bed, ample room service and change of scene will lull him to the land of nod, except he starts to miss the familiar comforts of his overcrowded cave in the forest.
With its stylised and witty artwork (we love the expressions of terror and disbelief on the faces of the other guests as Bear checks in), this is a good fun tale with a nice message about appreciating what you have. Available from Amazon
12. Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton. £6.99 (paperback), Walker
We just adore the sumptuous colour palettes of Chris Haughton’s books and this one is particularly gorgeous, awash with pink, purple and indigo. While the artwork is rich, the story is simple – it’s time for bed but while the mice, hares and deer are sleepy, a certain Little Bear is not (sound familiar, anyone?!).
A really lovely bedtime book that is perfect to share with the smallest bookworms. Available from Amazon
Read our review of Chris Haughton’s Oh No, George!
13. Chatterbox Bear by Pippa Curnick. £12.99 (hardback), Hodder
Gary loves to talk but his fellow bears are tired of his incessant chatter. So he jumps in his dingy and lands on an island inhabited by birds who like a conversation just as much – if only they spoke the same language!
This funny and warm story has a lovely message about how communication isn’t just about words and how who can find friends anywhere. Pippa Curnick’s vividly coloured illustrations are joyous and we love the amusing eyebrows that Gary’s feathered friends adopt to speak with him. Available from Amazon
14. The Everywhere Bear by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb. £11.99 (hardback), Macmillan
The pairing behind The Paper Dolls sprinkle their magic over this story of a class bear who goes on a dramatic adventure when he falls out of a child’s backpack on the way to school.
As he travels over stormy seas, in skips and the beak of a bird, the bear truly earns his name, before a twist of fate sees him return to Class One, slightly worn and wiser. Available from Amazon
15. I Thought I Saw A… Bear! by Lydia Nichols. £5.99 (board book), Templar
This hide-and-seek series is one of our favourites when it comes to interactive books and this bear version will have your child chuckling.
Little fingers will love using the sliders to spot the cheeky bear as he travels by train, bus and hot air balloon, and the artwork by Lydia Nichols (the brains behind many a Google Doodle) is very cool too. Available from Amazon
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