We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen: I Went on a Bear Hunt Once

Originally a song written in the early eighties, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a lively tale that brings a mish mash of emotions to the table. Fear, excitement, suspense, giggles…a plethora of feelings that ignite a young reader’s imagination. Just how exactly do you translate a song into such a wonderful children’s book? To find out you can’t just look at the book, you can’t skim it…you have to read it!

we're going on a bear hunt by mark rosen

What Happens in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt?

A father and his children set off on a bear hunt. Along the way, they encounter all sorts of obstacles. Squelchy mud, swishy grass, deep rivers, blinding snowstorms… all of which they can’t go under, they can’t go around, they have to go right through. But they’re not scared. They’re going on a bear hunt, and they’re determined to catch a big one…except what happens when they actually find it?

we're going on a bear hunt

The Writing/Illustrations

Author Michael Rosen transforms a song into a delightful read by keeping a rhythmic pace that holds true throughout the book. The story follows the format of “We’re going on a bear hunt/ we’re going to catch a big one/ What a beautiful day!/ We’re not scared.” Following those words is an exclamation of some obstacle, and then “We can’t go under it/ We can’t go around it/ We have to go through it!”

The honesty in Rosen’s writing and how he sticks to his rhythm makes this a joyful children’s book.

Illustrator Helen Oxenbury did not have an easy task on her hands. To depict such an epic family adventure put to writing such as Michael Rosen’s seems like a near impossible task. After all how do you draw a poem, or a song? I can’t guess how, but something clicked for Oxenbury, and she’s done a brilliant job with her artwork-it makes this an exceptionally memorable book.

we're going on a bear hunt illustrations

To Go On A Bear Hunt

I have to say, I am very pleased to be reviewing this book. First of all, it’s one of the first books I really remember. I have a very vivid memory of sitting at the back of the classroom in preschool, trying to peek over the heads of my 20 some classmates to better see my teacher as she held up We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” and read it out loud enthusiastically. I also remember all of my classmates chanting along and me being hopelessly confused and unable to catch onto the pattern. Still, it’s a fond memory.

Secondly, I myself have been on a bear hunt, so to speak. My junior year in high school I got really into wildlife photography. My Dad, being the supportive person he is, decided to take me on a trip out to Wyoming to get some experience in.

It was a quiet evening, around sunset, a few days into our trip that we find ourselves driving down a long road in Yellowstone National Park. Along the side of the road we see a cluster of people, standing atop a small hill. Everyone had cameras, and someone even had a telescope. Naturally we pull over, and when we inquired what was going on we were told there was a mother grizzly bear and her cub across this huge rolling field we were in. My heart stopped. In my irrational sixteen year old mind I think “this is my moment!” and take off, clutching my Dad’s (rather expensive) Nikon D-300 digital camera.

My Dad started yelling for me to come back, but of course I didn’t listen. I had no intentions of actually getting very close to the mother bear…just close enough to get a good picture.

So there I am, sprinting across this vast field towards the hulking form of a mother grizzly and her cub and everyone on the hilltop is cheering and watching through the telescope and my Dad is trying desperately to sprint after me (he had no chance of keeping up) and I am just plain dumb running.

Finally I stop. I tell myself it’s because I felt bad for making my Dad chase me and probably worrying him sick, but really I think I lost my nerve a little. I was close enough to see the mother bear raise her snout and sniff the air while her cub gamboled about her giant paws. I took a few pictures, than backtracked. I accidently came face to face with a giant buffalo on the way, which I’d been told not to get too close to, but after bear it was like “meh.”

I met up with my Dad, who was so relieved he laughed about the whole thing, and together we walked back towards our car and the dispersing crowd. I spotted a bear’s paw print pressed into mud just then, dried in the hot summer air. I placed my hand, small and delicate in comparison, in the indent and take a picture. It’s the closest I’d gotten to coming in contact with a bear that trip, and while I was a little disappointed; my Dad was more than fine with that.

So the fact that this book was about a father and his children going on a bear hunt struck up this memory of mine, and made me love the book all the more. You don’t have to go on an actual bear hunt to make memories with your kid that you can laugh over, just read the book. It’s much safer anyways.

If you like ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’,  you will also probably love Blueberries for Sal.

Have you ever gone on a Bear Hunt?

Leave a Reply