Book Review: Kuma-Kuma Chan, The Little Bear By Kazue Takahashi

Have you met Kuma-Kuma Chan yet? We are quite smitten with this little bear and his simple, adorable book. His story was originally published in Japan in 2001, but he has finally made his way over to the U.S. thanks to Museyon. He is a little bear that keeps quite busy and will delight every reader with this charming look at what a day in his life might possibly look like. Meet Kuma-Kuma Chan, The Little Bear by Kazue Takahashi, 2014.

The book opens with an appropriately abrupt start when the unseen narrator tells us that his favorite little bear is Kuma-Kuma Chan. I love a good non-sequitur, and children are pros at stating them as well as connecting to them. This little bear, we are told, lives deep in the mountains in a little house that is difficult to get to. And then we have the question that begins our simple story about this charming little bear: “I sometimes wonder what Kuma-Kuma Chan does during the day.”

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With every turn of the page we see short text on the left describing the possible activities of this sweet, yet eccentric bear; combined with a minimal illustration on the right loosely depicting his actions.

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The activities of his day are a mix of familiar and unique. Things like waking up, drinking coffee, sweeping the floor, and napping are all daily chores that everyone can identify. And then there are some lovely oddities, at least on this side of the globe. Making a salad for breakfast is a good example. Also, trimming his nails and then lining them up to gaze at them. Interesting? Delightful, according to my child.

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Kuma-Kuma Chan’s day is quite ordinary, but full of those lovely, simple moments that everyone, and especially children, relish doing and reading about. In a life that can be so overwhelmingly packed that our stories begin to reflect the harried pace we keep, Kuma-Kuma Chan is a relief in its celebration of the beautiful things we do every day.

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While a bit longer than a traditional 32 page picture book, the trim size keeps it from feeling long. Matching the concept of Kuma-Kuma Chan’s little stature, the book is small, only a bit larger than my hand. We adore small books in this house. I understand the average picture book tends to be large to keep it visible and less apt to disappear; but I have found little hands love to carry little books. They are like a treasure to find again and again.

I’m also incredibly fond of the book’s quality. Uncoated paper – need I say more? And the die-cut on the dust jacket has yet to not delight us all. Be sure to peek underneath and see the book’s cute hardcover illustration. Takahashi’s illustrations are beautiful in their texture and airiness. All the colors are muted and the expansive white space fits the tiny bear’s character perfectly.

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There is something just so perfectly lovely about Kuma-Kuma Chan, The Little Bear and the simple daily life Kazue Takahashi has constructed around him. This is the first of Takahashi’s work to be released in English and I love it. Whenever I need a reminder to just enjoy every moment and seemingly mundane task in my day, Kuma-Kuma Chan waves to me from the die-cut, beckoning me to dance to the radio or watch the sky become fully dark. He is one of my favorite little bears now too.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Kuma-Kuma Chan, The Little Bear By Kazue Takahashi

  1. Enjoyed reading this review, especially a couple comments from a youngster’s perspective…carrying little books & odd daily routines mentioned from another culture. I could imagine her comments ad someone read to her about breakfast salad.
    Looking forward to browsing the shelves for this little book in the future. Thanks!

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  2. Just discovered your blog today. It’s fantastic. I just finished going through all of your old posts and putting in my requests at the library. Thanks for sharing your love of books.

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  3. Thank you for posting about this! It is indeed a treasure of a book. I would like to note, though, that it is not “Takahashi’s first English translation of a book,” but rather the first of Takahashi’s books to appear in English translation.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Misa! Whew! That phrase is a trip to write out well. My apologies that it misread the first time. I have edited it to hopefully communicate better. Thanks!

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