Bear Is a Bear by Jonathan Stutzman and Dan Santat

Happy, happy, happy Friday! I am delighted and excited to welcome back Jonathan Stutzman and Dan Santat to Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate Bear Is a Bear. You'll want to add it to your to-buy list, to your to-share list, and to your to-read-aloud list. It is exquisite. 

Jonathan, Dan, and I discussed Dan's illustrations, bears, Alessandra Balzer, and more.  I wrote the words in purple, Jonathan wrote the words in black, and Dan wrote the words in green

Bear Is a Bear tells the story
of a girl’s life and her friendship with a Bear, who stays by her side through it all.

Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s illustrations for Bear Is a Bear are tender and charming, but at the same time incredibly emotive. Humor, sweetness, pathos, imagination… it’s all there. I’m always amazed at the amount of detail and emotion Dan is able to create in even the simplest of illustrations. His art always feels classic, but still bursts with so much energy, charm, and originality.

A bear is a bear that reminds me of the love, warmth, laughter (tickles!), and absolute safety I felt as a child, in my mother’s arms.

Jonathan Stutzman’s manuscript for Bear Is a Bear carried a lot of heart and emotion and it was also very similar to a manuscript I was writing, but just couldn’t quite figure out. What Jonathan wrote and what I envisioned for my own manuscript evolved into the story that you see now, which I feel is a perfect balance of our two strengths.

Bear Is a Bear’s illustrations was a slightly different interpretation of the manuscript than I think was intended by Jonathan. Without giving away the story, I saw something in the visuals of the storytelling which would change the narrative considerably, but end up telling the same story.

Dana Fritts and Alessandra Balzer were fantastic in allowing me to experiment and take risks with the narrative. In order to pursue my approach it was going to require a few more spreads to hit the right emotional impact and I also didn’t want to step on the authors toes. They presented the idea to Jonathan and he agreed, and I was grateful that he was so open to the idea. I had actually spent a few extra months on this approach and Alessandra and Dana agreed to push this manuscript back a season for me to explore. Thankfully, we all trusted one another in the process and I think it all paid off.

It paid off, Dan! Thank you, Jonathan and Dan!

Jonathan Stutzman is the author of numerous books for children, including Don't Feed the Coos, Santa Baby, the Llama trilogy, and the Tiny T-Rex series. He received his masters at Temple University for film and digital media. He lives in Lititz, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Heather Fox.

Dan Santat is the Caldecott Medal-winning and New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Are We there Yet?, and After the Fall. He has also illustrated many other picture books, including Crankenstein and A Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger, as well as Lift and Drawn Together by Minh Lê. Dan lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, and various pets.

Look for Bear Is a Bear on September 14, 2021.


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