In honour of the 25th anniversary of the publication of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, here’s my review. I might as well tell you now, it’s great.
This is the story of a family – an older brother, three younger children, a baby, and a dog – who are, predictably, going on a bear hunt. The story starts in media res – aka in the middle of things – and the characters are already on their way to find a bear on the very first page. Along the way the story takes the characters through different terrains, each one accompanied by a different sound:
We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.
Long wavy grass.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!
This is the ideal book to read out loud; in fact, it was first conceived by Michael Rosen as an oral story.
The illustrations skillfully depict a number of different sceneries. Helen Oxenbury lends her characteristically pastoral scenes to the picture book. The pictures alternate from black and white to colour, illustrating the nebulous line this book walks between fantasy and reality. While the formulaic text sculpts a rhythmically exciting adventure the illustrations tell the story of a family’s fun day out. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a great example of text and illustration pairing perfectly together to tell an in depth story in few pages and fewer words.
Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury have both won a number of awards and have incredibly fruitful careers, producing some of the most popular children’s books of our time.