Rainbow Bear by Stephen Michael King

Inside the CBCA Shortlist

Rainbow Bear (Scholastic Australia) overflows with family love, especially the love between a father and his children. It is full of gentle humour, founded in the natural rhythms of day and night, night and day; watched over by the celestial bodies of the sun, moon and stars – Stephen Michael King trademarks.

Bear comes home to the land of ice and snow with plenty of bear hugs and gifts of flowers for his wife and crayons for his two cubs. Tired from his journey, he spends the rest of the day playing with his children. “As the afternoon shadows blew in and before the moon had opened her eyes … Bear was asleep”. Next morning Bear woke up looking different, until he dived into the ocean. Each morning his coat changed, making him a rainbow bear, with a different pattern, until he swam. One day, he worked out why he was changing colour and got up to some mischief of his own.

The writing in this exceptional picture book is both lyrical and fun. The illustrations are pencil, watercolour, ink using digital compilation. The white of ice and snow is a perfect backdrop for the rainbow colours and patterns and textured hues of the water. Patterns include SMK’s signature spirals, as well as spots, circles, stripes and rainbows. The endpapers are uncoloured black and white line drawings, begging to be coloured.

Rainbow Bear is a profound work of child-like, gentle exuberance.

Stephen Michael King’s website is https://www.stephenmichaelking.com/

Using the book with children:

Story Stones Students are given four flat, light coloured stones to use as story stones. Using crayons or equivalent they draw patterns onto the stones to represent the four bear family members. The patterns could be similar to those in the book, or different. If possible, use bigger stones for the parents and smaller for the children. Children use their stones as the characters to retell the story. (Acknowledgement for the idea of using Story Stones to Megan Daley in Raising Readers, page 20.)

Children take the stones home to tell the story to their families. Then they give each family member a stone as a symbol of love. (Children with larger families can prepare extra stones in advance.)

Patterns Children draw and colour patterns inside a template of bear.

Read other books by Stephen Michael King, e.g. My Dad is a Giraffe; A Bear and a Tree; One Night; Milli, Jack and the Dancing Cat and more. Have a display to celebrate his exceptional body of picture books.

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