March 19, 2020

Teddy Bear of the Year

Written by Vikki VanSickle
Illustrated by Sydney Hanson
Tundra Books
40 pp.
Ages 3-7
January 2020

If you're trying to stay sane and safe indoors with your little ones, consider reading Vikki VanSickle's latest picture book and partaking in a few of Tundra's activities with your children's own hard-working teddy bears.
From Teddy Bear of the Year by Vikki VanSickle, illus. by Sydney Hanson
Ollie is Amena's teddy bear and he loves his job and being on call weekends and weekdays from 3 p.m. until after breakfast the next day. One night, a shining silver sailboat appears outside the window while Amena sleeps, and a grizzled old teddy bear named Snuggles a.k.a. The Snug invites Ollie to the Teddy Bears' Picnic, an annual event to celebrate the year in teddy-care.
From Teddy Bear of the Year by Vikki VanSickle, illus. by Sydney Hanson
With attention to his ABCs (Always Be Cuddling), Ollie gives Amena a hug and travels through the sky deep into the woods where teddy bears of all shapes and sizes enjoy treats, competition and some bearaoke. Then the awards are given out for exceptional teddy-care. From Boo Bear and Fang, to The Snug, teddy-bears are singled out for their dedication, nobility, and devotion. Certain he was just an ordinary bear, Ollie does not expect to receive one of the shiny stars. But he learns that
Even the smallest actions–a cuddle, a kind word, a hug–have great impact.
and is awarded Teddy Bear of the Year.
From Teddy Bear of the Year by Vikki VanSickle, illus. by Sydney Hanson
In these tenuous times, when we are all feeling a little anxious and need of some TLC, whether from others or ourselves, Teddy Bear of the Year reminds us that small efforts pay off in big rewards. And for children, the attention given to and accepted from any stuffie can mean the world between distress and comfort. Vikki VanSickle balances a message about these life-saving creatures in children's lives with the charm of their personalities and individual morphologies. She recognizes that Amena and Ollie are everything to each other and that surely deserves recognition.

Sydney Hanson, a new illustrator for me, knows what teddy bears mean to all. Her bears are snuggly and cuddly and diverse in their shapes and colours and attire. (I've checked out her portfolio at and she can even make scary creatures like ghosts and dragons look soft and caressible.) The art in Teddy Bear of the Year was created with coloured pencils and finished digitally, giving it both an intimate and a polished appearance that will draw young readers to grab their own teddy bears to see if they are depicted within.

Time to have your own teddy bear picnic and give out a few awards for perseverance, resilience and compassion while offering and taking a cuddle or two to make everything feel like it's going to be alright.
From Teddy Bear of the Year by Vikki VanSickle, illus. by Sydney Hanson
The free activity kit from Tundra Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada) is available hereThey also have activities for other books available on their website. 

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