Michael Rosen’s “We’re going on a bear hunt” is one of the most beloved children’s books in many countries. The book survived many editions and won many prizes. The author tells a story of a family that decided to go on a bear hunt and describes the adventures they experience on their way.
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The reason why the book has such a huge popularity is that the author employs a variety of tools to make the story not merely informative but highly engaging.
One of the most important features of good children’s literature is the narrative structure (Gamble, 2013). In Rosen’s book, personal narrative is used. Gamble (2013) remarks that this type or narration may present obstacles if the child telling the story employs “big themes and issues” that small children cannot understand (p. 79). However, Rosen’s narrator does not describe anything too complicated for little readers’ comprehension.
The narrator talks about his family going on a bear hunt and describes a variety of circumstances in which they find themselves (Walker Books, 2014). The family pass through the grass, river, mud, forest, snow, and cave. All of these places are familiar to the young audience. Therefore, the use of personal narrative does not complicate the children’s understanding of the story.
Another feature making a book truly brilliant is the use of multimodality. As Hassett and Curwood (2013) remark, modern literature for children does not focus on written language anymore. Thus, the text is only one “mode of communication” that is accompanied by other print or graphic features (Hassett & Curwood, 2013, p. 79). In Rosen’s book, several modes are used to engage the young audience.
The first mode is the text. The second mode is its representation: the same verse is repeated at the beginning of each adventure. The third mode is represented with the illustrations. Black-and-white pictures are replaced by colorful ones in turn (Walker Books, 2014). The fourth mode is also associated with illustrations: each onomatopoeic chant is situated in a bright yellow frame. The fifth mode is the book’s shape: it is almost square, which is more interesting for young children. Thus, multimodality of the book makes it more exciting for the audience and draws the children’s attention in a variety of ways.
The next determinant of a book’s success with the audience is the use of language and the musicality of words (Tunnell, 2008). The author employs many onomatopoeic words that encourage the children to repeat them as chants: “swishy swashy,” “splash splosh,” “squelch squerch,” “stumble trip,” “hooo wooooo,” and “tiptoe” (Walker Books, 2014). The second musicality element is the chant repeated at the beginning of each little adventure: “We’re going on a bear hunt. / We’re going to catch a big one. / What a beautiful day! / We’re not scared” (Walker Books, 2014). These features make Rosen’s book memorable and interesting for children.
Along with the previously discussed features, the book’s characterization and insight of idea also impact its success. In Rosen’s story, these elements are employed successfully through the choice of characters and their purpose. For young readers, the theme of family is rather significant, and they express sincere support and interest in the events happening in the story. The insight of the theme is rather crucial. Children learn that there is nothing scary when they are in the company of your parents and siblings.
Rosen’s “We’re going on a bear hunt” is one of the brightest examples of great children’s literature. Through the appropriate use of multimodality, figurative language, and other elements, the author manages to create a fairy-tale in which all readers can see themselves as heroes. The book’s theme and visual presentation make it one of the most popular stories for young children, their parents, and educators.
Gamble, N. (2013). Exploring children’s literature: Reading with pleasure and purpose (3rd ed.). London: SAGE.
Hassett, D. D., & Curwood, J. S. (2009). Theories and practices of multimodal education: The instructional dynamics of picture books and primary classrooms. The Reading Teacher, 63(4), 270-282.
Rosen, M. (2014). We’re going on a bear hunt: Celebrating 25 years. London: Walker Books.
Tunnell, M.O. (2008). How to recognize a well-written book. In M. O. Tunnel (Ed.), Children’s literature, briefly (4th ed.) (pp. 18-28). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.
Walker Books. (2014). Michael Rosen performs “We’re going on a bear hunt”. Web.