In the world of bears, gender roles flip and Babou takes on the task of caring for orphaned cub Coco as they meet friends and hike across the Adirondack Mountains. Forced to leave their dog friends, Molly, Rags and Pupsie, because of danger from humans, Coco and Babou set out in search of a Mama bear that can teach Coco the skills she needs to survive. They meet birds, beavers and foxes, each offering, with each friendly encounter, a kind lesson for Coco as she learns the ways of the wild woods.
Author Marie-Paule Mahoney invents a delightful story that parents (or brothers or sisters or anyone) can read along with young children. The color illustrations by Victor Guiza and the well-chosen photographs are perfect for engaging a child’s imagination. Snuggled up with COCO, readers and children will linger on each page, absorbing the adventure, and then push ahead to see what’s next for the inquisitive bear cub.
The story offers wonderful opportunities for children to celebrate differences. COCO offers animals caring and sharing with each other. A mama beaver eagerly gives Coco a tour of her lodge. A bird offers surprise snacks. And, the dogs show love, missing their friends Babou and Coco and excited about their return. Readers even get a glimpse of human kindness, as the dogs’ “Mama” and “Dada” help Coco and the dogs keep in touch when the bears leave for winter hibernation.
COCO’s a great adventure. But, it’s also a story that gives kids a chance to explore how they feel about being sad or scared or losing a loved one. COCO shows that love can come from a variety of people who take on the role of caregiver. Books designed for reading aloud benefit from a cadence that reflects the tenor of the story. Mahoney captures the sweetness of Coco’s adventure with lovely, light sentences. When danger comes close, the prose tightens, and hijinks are highlighted with words that bounce about as Coco scampers her way through the mountains.
Children and adults will love the time spent reading this book together. The travels of Coco and Babou lift the spirits and warms the heart – like a wonderful children’s book should.