Bear Stays Up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson, illustrations by Jane Chapman (2004)
Even hibernation isn’t going to get in the way of Bear celebrating Christmas with his friends!
Bear’s friends are determined to share Christmas with him this year, and they promise to keep him busy all day on Christmas Eve so he can spend it with them. They get a tree, decorate, bake, and hang their stockings before they settle in to sing Christmas songs by the fire and wait for Christmas Day to arrive. After spending all day keeping Bear awake, his friends soon nod off, leaving Bear wide awake. While they sleep, he works hard to make Christmas surprises for all his friends, so hard that he doesn’t even notice the bearded man in red who stops by the entrance to the cave to fill the stockings! His friends are thrilled by Bear’s gifts and what Santa leaves in the stockings, and their last surprise for Bear is a big, bear-sized quilt. They tuck him in, and he falls asleep. His good friends clean up after their celebration, and whisper their good-nights and Merry Christmases to him as they leave him once again to continue his winter sleep.
The Bear picture books, with their sweet illustrations done in acrylic and their simple rhyming text, are favorites among the story time crowd. As in this title, there is usually a repeated line (“Bear stays up” in this one) that, with minor variations, appears multiple times within the text so that young listeners can chime in with the reader. Little details and friendly animals make these fun books for little readers to explore on their own as well. I think that even infants would enjoy having this book read to them because of the bright pictures and rhythmic text, although I would recommend the board book version for the littlest readers, and I can see potentially up to third graders continuing to enjoy having this story read aloud to them one-on-one or in a larger group (particularly because of the level of participation they can achieve with the repeated line) or as a simple independent read.