The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett

A Retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett - Picture Book Cover

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The Three Snow Bears Book Review: Summary

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett is a delightful retelling of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." The picture book's Arctic setting and Inuit main character lend themselves to comparisons with the traditional tale of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." I recommend The Three Snow Bears for ages 4 to 8, particularly those children already familiar with the traditional tale.

The Story

The Three Snow Bears is set in the Arctic landscape and features a young Inuit girl named Aloo-ki. Aloo-ki is looking for her sled dogs, who are adrift on an ice floe. While searching for her dogs, Aloo-ki finds a big igloo and can’t resist looking in.

After tasting the three bowls of soup that she finds - big, middle-sized and small – she discovers one is too hot, one is too cold, and the small bowl is just right. Then, she tries on three pairs of boots - big, middle-sized and small - and decides that the small pair are “Just right!” After trying the different sleeping places on the long sleeping bench, Aloo-ki discovers that the smallest one is perfect and she lays down for a nap.

Meanwhile the snow bear family has been out for a walk, during which they rescue Aloo-ki’s sled dogs. When Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear return home, they are shocked to discover someone has been in their home.

When Aloo-ki wakes up to find three snow bears standing over her, she rushes out of the igloo. She finds her huskies outside waiting for her, hops on the dog sled, and off she goes, giving a thank you wave to the bears as she leaves.

Author and Illustrator Jan Brett and Her Artwork

What make the The Three Snow Bears such an appealing book are the setting and the illustrations by Jan Brett.

As she has done for many of her books, Jan Brett did a lot of onsite research in preparation for writing and illustrating her retelling of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." She and her husband, Joe Hearne, traveled to Iqualuit, the capital of the Nunavut Territory in northern Canada. There they visited an Inuit family, the school, and the town of Pangnirtung, well-known for its Intuit art. They traveled across Frobisher Bay by dog team to see an igloo. They also visited the Arctic Circle marker where Brett said, “We felt as if we were standing on top of the world."

I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Jan Brett on her recent book tour promoting Three Snow Bears. She was enthusiastic about all that she and seen and learned on her trip. Brett discussed how she was inspired by the Intuit designs she had seen and incorporated many of them into her illustrations. Brett’s illustrations, done in watercolors and gouache, are characterized by a large illustration that complements the text on the page, bordered by small illustrations that tell even more of the story. Children enjoy Jan Brett's picture books again and again, finding something new each time.

I was amazed to find out that Jan Brett has more than 33 million books in print.

Her books include retellings of folktales as well as original stories. One of my favorites is Jan Brett’s Christmas Treasury, a collection of holiday and winter stories that includes "The Twelve Days of Christmas," "The Night Before Christmas," "Trouble with Trolls," "Christmas Trolls," "The Hat," "The Mitten," and "The Wild Christmas Reindeer." Hedgie’s Surprise, The Umbrella, and Daisy Comes Home are other favorites as are Home for Christmas and The Easter Egg.

My Recommendation

The Three Snow Bears is a wonderful book to read aloud to 4-8 year olds. It’s also a good read-alone for independent readers. However, I think that in order for children to fully appreciate this retelling, it’s important that they already be very familiar with the traditional story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." Otherwise, they won't understand the origins of the retelling and they’ll miss the fun of comparing and contrasting what’s the same and what’s different in the two versions.

(G.P. Putnam’s Sons, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2007. ISBN: 9780399247927)

Related Picture Books

For different authors' retellings of the traditional tale, see my article Traditional Tales of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. For very funny nontraditional versions, see my article Goldilocks and the Three Bears - Funny Fractured Fairy Tales.

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