Friday, February 10, 2012

Brown Bear & Friends

Brown Bear & FriendsBrown Bear & Friends by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle
Brown Bear & Friends features the four wildly popular bear stories by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle. I would recommend reading the books and enjoying the vibrant illustrations before listening to these audiobooks. This compilation is read by Gwyneth Paltrow.

According to the back cover description, the audiobook only includes four picture books. The listener is in for a few surprises! After Gwyneth Paltrow shares her versions of Brown Bear, Polar Bear, Panda Bear and Baby Bear, Adriana Sananes shares each story in Spanish! Even if you are not familiar with Spanish, Sananes shares an excellent retelling. Following the eight stories, Macmillan Audio includes Bill Martin Jr. reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear and then an interview with Eric Carle.

I was greatly disappointed by the description on the back of Brown Bear & Friends. Only Paltrow is credited to reading and with a description of "Academy Award winning actress and mother." I thought the description was poorly stated. She won awards and she's a mother! With those accreditation, it clearly makes her an appropriate narrator. I understand descriptions need to by eye catching and informative, but it rankles me when writers throw in information that seems to justify why they chose one person over another.

Paltrow's versions include music underneath each book while she soothingly shares each tale. Her voice would be welcome for young listeners. The stories would also be gentle stories before bedtime.

Adriana Sananes shares dynamic retellings of the bear books. I know a smattering of Spanish so it was really interesting to see what I could understand and follow. Music was not included underneath her audio tracks. I would be interested to hear her entertain again.

Bill Martin Jr's recording was great. I love to hear author's read their own work, because they will read it as they picture it in their head. It's a special treat.

Finally, the interview with Eric Carle was very informative. I wish it could have been longer, but then the cd would have ran over an hour. Oh, well. I would recommend this audiobook to librarians and teachers. It is very versatile with English stories, Spanish stories and an illustrator interview.

Paltrow's versions - 3/5
Sananes' versions - 4/5
Martin's version - 4/5
Carle interview - 5/5

Reviewed from a library copy.

Stephanie also reviews this audiobook at's blog Vox Daily.

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