James Bear (aka J. B.) is delighted with his new harmonica and soon whiles away several happy hours practicing. But the discovery that he's a chip off the old musical block (his father is a concert harmonicist at Bearnegie Hall) and the inevitable attendant comments and comparisons create a flurry of concern. Worried that he may be losing his identity, J. B. puts away his harmonica. Finally, after his Dad points out that ``all of us have our very own song inside'' and that nobody expects the two of them to be just alike, J. B. can pursue his newfound love of music with confidence. First-time author (and noted musician) Sebastian spins a low-key, placidly paced tale with a valuable message about individuality. His understated prose is comfortably bolstered by the familiar style of Williams's almost tangibly fuzzy black-and-white illustrations. The book's unobtrusively handsome design makes this a classy package, with abundant white space, and the deep blue and burgundy hues of the jacket echoed in hand-drawn borders around the text. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
PreS-Gr 2-- A bit of understated bibliotherapy couched in an appealing story about a family of talented bears. J. B. likes to play the harmonica, but he feels insecure about being compared to his famous harmonica-playing father, who has appeared in Bearnegie Hall. Faced with this first identity crisis, he stops playing for a while until he's coaxed out of his silence by his mother. The story bogs down during page-long heart-to-heart talks with his parents about being himself. The resolution, in which J. B. accepts his father's words, ``All of us have our very own song inside,'' waivers somewhere between the heartfelt and the saccharine. However, the sincere and loving looks on these furry musicians make the ending work. Williams's charcoal drawings enhance the story's warmth and quiet humor; the most effective are those in which backgrounds are almost eliminated so that attention is focused on the round bodies and expressive faces of animals, silhouetted against a white background. A book best for one-to-one sharing or for a primary-grade story session in which discussion is encouraged. --Linda Wicher, Highland Park Public Library, IL
J.B. is a young bear just learning to play the harmonica. He huffs in and puffs out, and improves with practice. Eventually, people start comparing him to his father, a virtuoso harmonica player. Although J.B. loves his father, he isn't sure what he wants to be when he grows up, and, angry at the comparison, he stops playing the harmonica. Luckily, his parents are the noticing kind, and they help him understand that "all of us have our own song inside." J.B. first plays his own song; then he surprises his father by playing one of his father's songs--"but he played it his very own way." Williams' charcoal drawings are warm, simple, and well suited to the cozy tale of growing up and into one's talents. For reading aloud or beginning-to-read alone, this is a genial story with a satisfying conclusion that addresses an unusual part of growing up.