kristen tracy

I Am Friendly Confessions of a Helpful Bear by Kristen Tracy illustrated by Erin Kraan


I Am Friendly: Confessions of a Helpful Bear

A hilarious picture book that follows the adventures of a well-meaning grizzly bear trying to help her forest friends.

Don't look at this bear and think she is ferocious. Quite the opposite of grizzly. She is friendly!

Need directions? She's your bear. What about an afternoon snack? Look no further. Being this thoughtful has always come naturally to her, and she just knows itís appreciated by all her forest friends. Keep an eye out! There's always someone in need of a helping hand - or paw.

From the silly to the sincere, I Am Friendly by children's author Kristen Tracy and rising star illustrator Erin Kraan will resonate with every big-hearted reader.

Publishers Weekly:

"Don't look at me and think that I'm ferocious," a large, lumpy grizzly implores readers. "I am not. I am friendly. I've been thoughtful my whole life." Kind eyes and a tentative raised paw seal the deal. But it's tough to be seen as considerate when you're so imposing. Noticing a yellow-bellied marmot who's running low on snacks, the bear lumbers forward, arms raised, to alert the marmot to the best spot for grass. Of course, the marmot immediately runs in the other direction, and the bear has to give chase. And when a rabbit is about to leap into its burrow, the bear plucks it from midair: "Careful, rabbit. You don't want to fall into that deep hole." (Yes, that is exactly what it wants to do!) Oblivious to the bunny's terror, our ursine hero scoops it up and promises to find it a carrot.

The fundamental disconnect between the well-meaning bear and the frightened wildlife will keep readers giggling. With guidance from adults, this one may spark discussions of motivation, intent, and self-perception vs. reality. Kraan relies on cheery greens and yellows to bring to life the woodland meadow, while the animals are cartoonish, with hilariously over-the-top reactions. Perfectly silly.

Kirkus Reviews:

Chaos ensues when an overzealous bear self-appoints as forest helper in Tracy and Kraan's comic story. Clarifying that "I am friendly. Iíve been thoughtful my whole life," the oblivious ursine protagonist works to help a fawn find its mother, to supply a yellow-bellied marmot some snacks, and to save what it perceives as a "stuck baby mountain goat," among other gestures. Predictably, the figureís self-judged friendliness proves terrifying to its recipients, resulting in varied degrees of helpfulness and humor. Spotting the marmot, Bear chases the frightened critter to a meadow with "much better grass," and an attempt to assist a badger leaves the animal dripping in honey and swarmed by bees. When Bear beds down at day's end, a final inviting act of kindness at last achieves only its sweet intentions. Fine lines provide a scratchy texture to the spreads and especially to Bear, whose cheerful disposition is echoed with sunny undertones.

Horn Book:

Tracy and Kraan provide humorous (faux) insight into the thoughts of one of natureís more formidable creatures: the brown bear. Our protagonist begins the storyís narration with reassurances that, rather than being ferocious, "I am friendly. Iíve been thoughtful my whole life." But despite good intentions, the bearís repeated attempts to assist other forest creatures just cause chaos, often because the other animals are terrified at the bearís intimidating presence. Disorder also results from the bearís strength; for instance, vigorously scratching oneís back on a signpost can rearrange the signs and prevent future travelers from reaching their destinations. Even more amusingly, the protagonist is completely oblivious to all the tumult (or, in the case of the signpost, "fixes" it in a way that doesnít help). Cartoonish illustrations enhance the plot and humor using varied compositions, from full-bleed spreads to sequential vignettes and panels. At the bookís end, the bear, tuckered out from a long day of helping others, addresses readers directly with a "bear hug" - which looks scary, but readers and listeners can draw their own conclusions.


This chuckle-inducing picture book opens on a big, clawed bear reassuring the reader: "Donít look at me and think I am ferocious... I am friendly. Iíve been thoughtful my whole life." She then proceeds to show the reader just some of the thoughtfulness she brings to the forest - galloping at high speeds to help a seemingly abandoned baby deer (who is rightly terrified) only to find a mother already close by, or ripping a chokecherry tree from the dirt and shaking it out over the head of an already-snacking elk. As the berry-and-branch bedecked elk turns his splattered face away in disdain, the friendly bear shrugs, affably oblivious to the reception her help seems to be getting: "I guess you can't please everybody." Not that this attitude stops her from extending more "helping paws" to her fellow fauna; she covers up a dangerous burrow hole so a poor rabbit wonít fall in and supportively assists a badger in finding some honey (and its accompanying swarm of bees). Kids will find themselves delightedly in on the joke of contrary situations and deciduous-forest disarray created by our shambolic bearoine, and Kraanís illustrations, employing a mix of woodcut prints, gouache paint, and digital collage bring the bearís exploits to life in all their goofy glory. Shaggy, unkempt fur in shades of umber and sandy brown begs for a scruffle, and a bottom-heavy design paired with breezy, bear-toothed smiles evoke a lumbering loveability, even as panicked marmosets flee the scene. Ending in a cheerful bear hug and a wish for readers to "sleep tight... And remember to dream with all your might," this book is an excellent read-aloud for getting the last of the day's giggles out before a peaceful hibernation.

I Am Friendly was released in hardcover on May 21st, 2024.

ISBN-10: 0374391181

ISBN-13: 978-0374391188

Recommended for preschoolers.

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