Ask Mr. Bear

Zorro has been very slow about learning to read.  Part of this is because his brain hasn’t fully clicked into reading mode yet, and part of it is because he doesn’t want to exercise the self-discipline required to sit down and pay attention to one thing.  I want him to acquire the discipline without pushing him beyond his ability, so he is required to read out of an “easy reader” book for a 5 minutes each day.   He also possesses a rapid memory that allows him to memorize these books with rapidity, so I am always excited about a new book I can add to our rotation.

Alas, quality Easy Readers are very hard to find.  Most of the ones at our local library are mind-numbingly dull, tell pointless stories that end in a spoiled child finally being given the object of his desire, and often feature popular TV icons that possess no fascination off screen. Where are the stories with simple words and rich thoughts?

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I found such a book in Ask Mr. Bear. Ask Mr. Bear is written by the great Marjorie Flack, who wrote the Story About Ping and the Angus books.

Though the words are simple and repetitive, the tale is a worthy one. A young boy is searching for a gift for his mother, and visits the various animals in the barnyard on his way.  What manners he has!  No rudeness from young Danny.  As each animal suggests something that his mother already has, Danny always remembers to say “Thank you!” before explaining why his search must continue.  As for the animals, they are not in the least bit miffed that their offerings are rejected, but rather they all band together to help Danny solve his dilemma.

The solution they discover is one that requires little Danny to leave the safety of the farmyard and go on a journey, leaving his friends behind.  Danny gladly makes the trip, still wholly focused on giving his mother a special gift.  In a talented display of artistic talent, Marjorie Flack uses a few short pages to pull us out of the sun drenched fields and into the dark woods along with the pint-sized hero.

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The change from warm fields to mossy woods is a masterful use of color and shadow.

In the end, Danny’s search pays off and he finds the perfect gift.  Thanks to Marjorie Flack’s story-telling ability, I am left with an early reader that fascinates and motivates without overwhelming.  This book is a gem.

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