About the Holiday
There are many things to be thankful for this month and all throughout the year. At the top of the list would be our friends—both old and new. Celebrate your friendships during the holidays and tell the people in your life how thankful you are for them! You can show them too with little acts of kindness—like the friends in today’s book!
I’d like to thank Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of The Best Gift for Bear with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
The Best Gift for Bear
By Jennifer A. Bell
Hedgehog was baking gingerbread cookies for all of her friends. She carefully considered what shapes and decorations she would make for each recipient, making sure she created a replica of one of their favorite things or showed how special they were. She even made individual rabbit cookies “for each rabbit,” and “Hedgehog knows a LOT of rabbits.” But she still had to bake cookies for. Bear, and she couldn’t decide what to make.
Should she make ice skates? “Bear had taught her to twirl and glide” on the pond. Or maybe something from springtime. Bear loved watching butterflies. Or perhaps sunflowers like the ones Bear had shown her that summer. Thinking about all the fun times they had together, Hedgehog decided a batch of cookies was just not enough. “‘Bear should have a grand gift, a special gift, something wonderful . . . just like Bear,'” she thought. But what?
And then as she approached home after delivering all of her cookies, she “saw her frosted roof” and had an idea. She got to work right away “and happily baked her way into the night.” Then in the morning “Hedgehog began to build her gift.” With gingerbread bricks and sweet icing, she built and decorated a house for Bear. It had butterflies and sunflowers and even Bear, wearing a coat, scarf, and ice skates. Hedgehog put it on her sled and stood back to admire it.
Hedgehog pulled her sled over the hills and through the snow to Bear’s house. But the calm afternoon turned windy and snowy. The squalls made it hard for Hedgehog to pull or push the sled, and then, when Hedgehog was nearly at Bear’s, one huge gust sent the gingerbread house flying and scattered it into pieces. Hedgehog looked at the broken house sadly and didn’t see Bear, in pajamas and carrying a lantern, approaching.
Bear knelt down then picked Hedgehog up and blew away the snow from her quills and coat. Hedgehog gave Bear’s cheek a big hug. “Grand, special, WONDERFUL Bear!” Bear brought Hedgehog inside, wrapped her in a soft, cozy blanket and made her a cup of tea. As they sipped their tea, they commiserated together over the gifts they had made each other—Hedgehog’s broken gift for Bear and the misshapen cookies Bear had made for Hedgehog. “‘… but I thought I’d try again tomorrow,'” Bear told her. Hedgehog then had a wonderful idea to bake the cookies together. With Hedgehog snugged into a teacup with her blanket and Bear toasty under a warm quilt, the two friends couldn’t wait for tomorrow to spend the day together—”the best gift of all!”
Recipes for Hedgehog’s Gingerbread Cookies and Grandma’s Honey Icing are included with the story. Hedgehog’s clever designs for her gift cookies will give kids lots of ideas for decorating their own cookies too!
Jennifer A. Bell’s sweet and charming story wraps readers in the warmth of a heartfelt hug as Hedgehog puts all of her love and thoughtfulness into the gingerbread cookies she carefully bakes for each of her friends and neighbors—and especially for Bear. Bell’s gentle humor and charming phrasing that takes readers step-by-step through Hedgehog’s memories of Bear’s kindnesses, and her days spent baking and building Bear’s gingerbread house will delight kids. The windstorm and its aftermath provides suspense and an emotional tug as Hedgehog (and readers) experience disappointment but then, a moment later, the tender and supportive friendship between Hedgehog and Bear.
Bell’s enchanting illustrations are full of cheer and delicious-looking cookies. As Hedgehog tries to decide what to make for Bear, her memories of their times spent throughout the year depict the fun they’ve had and also the adorable size difference between them. Shades of red, pink, blue, green, and gingerbread brown create a graceful and well-paced cohesion from page to page while also bestowing a palpable sense of the chilly winter outside and the cozy warmth inside. The red ribbon that flows in a connecting pattern between some pages and frames vignettes in others highlights the heart at the center of this story.
A touching story about true friendship and the most important gifts of all, The Best Gift for Bear is a book children will enjoy all through the year and is sure to inspire cookie baking and decorating. The book would be a much-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections. It would make a terrific gift or read aloud for any cookie-decorating party.
Ages 3 – 7
Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542029223
About the Author and Illustrator
Jennifer A. Bell is the illustrator of more than forty children’s books, including the Sophie Mouse series. She studied fine art at the Columbus College of Art & Design, and her work can also be found on greeting cards and in magazines. This is the first picture book she’s written and illustrated. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about her at www.jenniferabell.com. You can connect with Jennifer on Instagram: @jbellstudio | Facebook: Jennifer A. Bell Illustration | Twitter: @JenniferABell_
Gratitude Month Activity
Gingerbread Kids Decorations
Gingerbread’s not only delicious to eat! Creatively iced gingerbread has long been used as decorations in homes and windows. With this easy craft, kids can make decorations for their rooms, to hang for the holidays, or to give to friends or family members.
- Printable Gingerbread Kids Template
- 2 Brown foam sheets
- White paint (or any color you like)
- Paint brush
- 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
- Mounting squares (for mounting)
- Thread and needle (for optional hanging)
- Cut out gingerbread kids templates
- Trace gingerbread kids on brown foam sheets and cut out
- Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
- Add trim to the dress
- Add trim to make socks
- Add dots of paint for buttons
- Add faces
- Paint or add a bit of glue to the hands of each figure then sprinkle glitter on the paint to make mittens
- Glue heart buttons on (optional)
- To make a wall or gift box decoration: Attach mountable squares to back
- To make an ornament: With a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.
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