Caroline for [...]
I was immediately drawn to the earthy tones of the illustrations. While I have nothing against the usual abundance of primary colours and particularly in my house at the moment, overwhelming presence of pink, I found the muted tones and the understated illustrations refreshing.
The illustrations complement the story perfectly, mirroring the stilted, socially polite, awkwardness of the dialog between the characters. This is particularly evident when, by contrast, the bear comes into contact with a genuinely interested deer. Not only is the deer concerned about the bear and wants to help him but it is the first time any of the characters make eye contact.
My two year old, still in the phase of life where everything is either black or white and having not yet developed the ability to lie or bend the truth, doesn't understand the book at all. The illustrations that delight me with their cleverness, fail to hold his attention.
My daughter (4.5) loved being in on the joke, identifying the location of the hat and the guilty party, long before the bear twigs on. Like her mother she has a dark sense of humour and we laughed together as the bear misses some big clues to the guilty parties identity and when the lying culprit finally gets his just desserts. However, even she missed the finale entirely and believes, despite the bears rather suspicious, unprovoked pronouncement "I would not eat a rabbit", that the bear extracts his revenge by sitting on the rabbit.
Verdict: A fabulously naughty picture book, more suited to the canny early reader than the black and white pre-schooler.