A young boy named Herman is on his way to visit his Aunt Gert, walking from the last stop on the bus to her house. It is very, very cold, so to keep himself warm, he tucks himself as far as he can into his furry coat and furry hat.
Walking along in his coat and hat, it’d be easy to mistake him for a bear, which is just what happened when a bear passes by. And thus begins, Not THIS Bear! a gentle, delightful, humorous tale of mistaken identity, written and illustrated by Bernice Myers in sparingly simple prose and pictures.
Poor Herman is indeed mistaken for Cousin Julius and is whisked off to a nearby cave, where he is greeted with excited hugs and kisses by an extremely large family. A big banquet is served in honor of Cousin Julius. All the bears lap at their soup with their tongues (as bears obviously do), while Herman politely uses a spoon. And when the vegetables arrive, Herman uses a fork (which he conveniently has in his pocket).
"My, my!" Big Brown Bear says incredulously. "How smart you are to learn a trick like that."
"It’s because I’m not a bear," Herman tries to convince them. “I’m a boy,” but the bears don’t listen and even as Herman starts singing and dancing and whistling, the bears simply believe Cousin Julius must have learned these fabulous tricks in the big city. Following the mean, when the bears settle down for a nap, Herman lies down next to them until he realizes they are about to begin their winter hibernation. He’s had enough.
"I only sleep one night at a time," Herman says. "I’m not sleeping through the winter. "
The bears are mystified – what bear doesn’t sleep the winter away – so Herman details what he loves so much about winter – the sledding and skating, the hot cocoa, snow ball fights and snowmen. Suddenly, the Big Brown Bear (with a slightly more sinister growl) snarls, “Perhaps you aren’t a bear after all,” and quickly the bear removes Herman’s furry hat and coat.
"He’s not a bear at all," he exclaims, and Herman, shivering in the cave seems to shrug and say, "See I am a boy."
Happily, the bears roar with laughter, Herman puts on his coat and hat and waves goodbye to the bear. "Come visit us in the Spring," the bears call after him, as he heads back off to Aunt Gert’s house.
But just before he is out of the woods...."Cousin Bernard, Cousin Bernard," a big black bear calls…..
You can’t help but smile and enjoy this wonderful picture book. The one problem is that a quick check on Amazon shows this book is out of print (it was originally published in 1967), but I strongly recommend you search a bit – at a local library for starters, for this wonderful story. It is one book that ought never to be forgotten.
Not THIS Bear!
Written and Illustrated by Bernice Myers
Published by Scholastic
Reviewed by Jenny Tananbaum