A tiny hero's big adventures
Winter is a wonderful season to snuggle up in a big chair and let books take us traveling. It's also a good season for bears.
Meet Urso Brunov, the Little Father of All Bears, and the wisest, strongest, bravest bear in the world. Now, Urso is very tiny, only the size of your thumb, but that doesn't keep him from having polar-bear-sized adventures.
Brian Jacques, best known for the immensely popular Redwall series, sets his original tale in a faraway land, where a tribe of bears called Brunov makes its home. One cold day, just as he's snuggled in for a long winter's nap, Urso learns that four of the tiny bears in his keeping have gone missingthey've set out for the South, following the geese and searching for sunny lands. (And who can blame them?)
But, alas, it's a dangerous land for little bears, so brave Urso sets out to find them. He soon learns that the four bears have been captured by a group of hunting men led by a ferocious leader called The Lord of All Sands. It takes all of Urso's cunning, and several hair-raising adventures with wild-eyed goats, snarling boars and a camel named Gobinag, to rescue not only the tiny, misguided bears, but a whole zoo of caged animals. And The Lord of All Sands? In the end this greedy, mustached villain turns out to be quite a crybaby, putty in the hands of the mighty Urso.
Alexi Natchev, a Bulgarian-born illustrator now living in the United States, graces Jacques' adventure with bright, child-friendly, humorous watercolors. Kids will especially love the tiny Urso in the corner of each page: when the pages are flipped, he performs a Russian dance.
As little readers know, it's not easy being small in an adult world. With The Tale of Urso Brunov, Brian Jacques gives youngsters a reassuring story, proving once again that good things (and heroes) do indeed come in small packages.
Deborah Hopkinson's new book, Shutting out the Sky, was recently named one of the top 100 books of the year by the New York Public Library.