Following in Winnie's Pawprints
The menagerie created by A.A. Milne—born Jan. 18, 1882—has brought readers joy for nearly a century.
But kids cannot live by Winnie-the-Pooh alone, so we asked our picture-book experts here at NYPL to tell us about their favorite stories that feature bears as the protagonists.
Peter Brown has two picture books, Children Make Terrible Pets and You Will Be My Friend!, which feature Lucy, an enthusiastic young bear who goes a little overboard in her search for a friend. The illustrations are simultaneously bright and rustic (an engaging combination), and Lucy’s eagerness comes across in the text, which makes it a fun read-aloud for both the reader and the listener. A hit with the kindergarten set! —Leah Labrecque, 58th Street
My favorite go-to featuring a bear as the protagonist is the West Village’s own Greg Foley’s Bear series. Read ‘em all! They work so well as read-alouds too. —Anne Barreca, Battery Park City
I Want My Hat Back by John Klassen is a fun picture book for children and parents alike, laced with subtle humor in every illustration. That is also the most forbearing bear I ever saw. —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil
A classic bear-centric read is Don Freeman’s Corduroy! I always loved his adventure through the department store after closing, and was also very aware and appreciative of the diversity of characters in this book. Still a great read today! —Katrina Ortega, Hamilton Grange
Bonny Becker has a series of picture books about Bear and his friend Mouse. In The Sniffles for Bear, he’s grumpy and curmudgeonly as Mouse tries to help him recover from his cold. In A Library Book for Bear, he insists that he already has all the books he could ever need as Mouse encourages him to go to the library. —Jenny Baum, Jefferson Market
I love Karma Wilson’s Bear series, especially Bear Snores On. These funny rhyming stories are great for sharing aloud. —Rebecca Dash Donsky, 67th Street
Old Bear by Jane Hissey has always been one of my favorites. A group of very independent thinking stuffed animals attempt to rescue their friend Old Bear from the attic where he has been placed to keep him safe from further decay. They miss him and work together to get him back. Very sweet! —Maura Muller, Volunteer Office
It’s an old one, but I am very partial to Frank Asch’s Happy Birthday, Moon. Bear is so sweet, innocent, and, ok, a little dim-witted, but it’s fun to teach kids about the concept of an echo. —Ronni Krasnow, Morningside Heights
Of course there’s the sweet Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik about the adventures of Little Bear! I loved these when I was a child. —Susie Heimbach, Mulberry Street
Although it’s almost 30 years old at this point, Jamberry by Bruce Degen is a really fun read-aloud featuring a bear and a boy as they make a jam-tastic mess. —Caitlin Colman-McGaw, Programming
One of my favorite children’s books involving a bear as a (semi-)main character is Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. The recipient of a Caldecott Honor in 1949, the story follows a human girl and a bear cub who accidentally switch mothers while picking blueberries on a hill. Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk. —Leslie Bernstein, Mott Haven
In The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud, kids can search for the little bear chasing a honeybee out of the woods and through the city to the opera while his papa tries to catch up. The large format of this title allows for wonderfully detailed illustrations and the story rewards the father and the son at the end. And then you can follow it up with The Bear’s Sea Escape and The Bear’s Surprise. —Jessica Cline, Mid-Manhattan
Join not one, not two, but three bears as they voyage together on the sea to find a replacement of their mother’s favorite seashell. Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman transports you through this epic quest with stunning illustrations as well as children’s literary references throughout! —Anna Taylor, Programming
Suzanne Bloom’s A Splendid Friend Indeed is very sweet indeed…the cover kinda says it all. —Melissa Scheurer, Mid-Manhattan
Salina Yoon’s Found and Stormy Night are two of my favorites right now. These sweet picture books tell of Bear’s serendipitous discovery of a lost stuffed bunny and his thunder storm coping methods. These are great for reading in groups of all sizes! —Alexandria Abenshon, Yorkville
A personal favorite is Leaves by David Ezra Stein, a sweet story about a young bear experiencing the changing seasons for the first time. —Rosa Caballero-Li, Ask NYPL
What about The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward? A boy goes out to shoot a bear for the bearskin (I know, not PC, but this was published in the 50’s), but comes home with a bear cub. He raises it until it grows too big for the farm. This won the Caldecott Award in 1953. —Sue Yee, Children’s Center
I recommend The Bear Feels Sick by Karma Wilson. Her whole bear series. —Ruth Guerrier-Pierre, Kips Bay
A Story for Bear, written by Dennis Haseley and illustrated by Jim La Marche. The illustrations invite the reader into a yard in the forest to hear stories, and everyone who loves to listen to stories will want to hear this one. It’s about reading and friends, and you can’t find a better combination. —Peggy Salwen, St. Agnes
Ask Mr. Bear by Marjorie Flack is super old, but timeless. A young boy is in a quandary over what to give his mother for her birthday. After consulting a variety of farm yard animals he takes their advice and sees Mr. Bear who offers the perfect solution. Flack’s bright, engaging illustrations are always a hit with audiences. —Rebecca Gueorguiev, Great Kills
Winnie-the Pooh is such a favorite from my childhood—brings back memories of lying next to my mother on her king-sized bed listening to her read until her voice wore out! Here’s a newer favorite of mine: Old Bear by Kevin Henkes. Old Bear dreams during the long winter night about seasons and colors and being a small cub. Love the art, the deceptively simple perfect text and that contemplative quality. —Danita Nichols, Inwood
Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.
Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!