Maybe a Bear Ate It!: the review

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

If Denver four-year-olds make small talk about literature, surely Maybe a Bear Ate It! would come up. The picture book has been selected as the book in the state's One Book 4 Colorado preschool reading campaign. In theory, every kid in the sandbox will be reading it. 

The story by Robie E. Harris is simple. An unnamed boy or creature -- the drawings by Michael Emberley don't make the protagonist's origins entirely clear -- has lost something. He suspects a bear is responsible. That he lost a book, and is distraught without it, probably contributed to Maybe A Bear Ate It! being selected for the program. 

But what should be the dominant question of the book -- where is this misplaced object? -- is replaced by a hunt for who is at fault for its misplacement. 

At the risk of spoiling the end, a bear did not in fact eat the mislaid book, and the other suspects are equally faultless. Still, there's something both childlike and adult in the hope that a small loss could stem from a larger force. It's also easy to draw parallels between the accused bear in the title and the rash of bear-related fatalities last summer. In both cases, bears take the fall for the consequences of a messy bedroom and feeding wild animals. 

Despite the relatable dread that some power, be it a bear or vengeful God, is controlling our fate and taking our books, Maybe A Bear Ate It! lacks what literary critic James Wood described as "thisness: "[a] detail that draws abstraction toward itself and seems to kill that abstraction with a puff of palpability." What book is the boy missing? Is the protagonist even a boy? What kind of bear would be hungry for a book? These are the questions Colorado pre-schoolers needs answers to, and ones Robie H. Harris fails to provide.

Follow us on Twitter!

Like us on Facebook!

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.