Day 7 of the Christmas Picture Book Countdown! This summer I discovered the delightful series about Jesse Bear that begin in 1986 and ran through 2004. My three year old fell hard for that lovable bear and I swoon over the childhood favorite illustrator, Bruce Degen, and his fantastic backdrops and enchanted world around Jesse Bear. I’m slowly tracking down vintage copies of the series, and our most recent acquisition is this special Christmas story! I’m sure I’ll be talking more about this lovable bear in the near future, but let me start by sharing Where Is Christmas, Jesse Bear? by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Bruce Degen, 2000.
Something that I particularly enjoy about reading the Jesse Bear series is that you are always talking to Jesse Bear and responding as Jesse Bear when you read them. It makes for a lovely read-aloud experience and is even more adorable when you hear your three year old reading aloud to herself and basically having a conversation with Jesse Bear.
In this Christmas story, the narrator is in bold text, asking Jesse Bear where Christmas is. It is an interesting question and quickly sparked discussion about what exactly is being asked. I love that a picture book is getting so philosophical into discussing what Christmas actually looks like, feels like, tastes like, and more. It’s not “What is Christmas?” but “Where?” It speaks to all the places that we can find the holiday–from visiting loved ones, to making cookies, to decorating, and celebrating big and small. Christmas can be seen in so many places and so many ways.
Bruce Degen is the illustrator of one of my earliest book memories as a child. I adored Jamberry and still have it memorized. Part of what I loved about that book was the elaborate, imaginative world that was created around the characters. The same rings incredibly true of the Jesse Bear books. I first looked up Jesse Bear when a friend commented on my picture book bedrooms research post about loving Jesse Bear’s bedroom. I was unfamiliar with these books and proceeded to look them up only to discover how beloved he was and that I was missing something. A few well-placed searches later… and we had our first Jesse Bear book. It was a quick hit for all of us.
Degen makes a cozy home for this bear family. Wallpaper, flooring, decor, and more, so much thought and enjoyment has gone into illustrating this world. I love to pore over every page, wondering over the layout and focal points Degen seems to effortlessly create.
Reminiscent of another beloved bear in our home, the Little Bear series, there is a sweet and desirable family life around Jesse Bear. Mother, Father, and cub doing life together. Nothing major happens, Jesse Bear is just a kid experiencing life in adorable and sometimes exasperating ways.
Ironically, we first read this book the day after my girls performed in our church’s small Christmas pageant. It looked oddly similar to this favorite spread above (minus Santa and the reindeer though). That is what I love about Jesse Bear stories, it looks like our life. All the activities Jesse Bear encounters (in every book) are things my kids do, have done, or add to their list of activities. I’m so excited to add this Christmas book to our collection. We are anticipating Christmas’ arrival, and Jesse Bear’s activities and joy make the wait even sweeter.