Review: A Bear for Bimi

A Bear for Bimi

by Jane Breskin Zalben, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rachel Simon

A Bear for Bimi, written by Jane Breskin Zalben and illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg, is an accessible and important picture book. It follows the story of Evie (white and presumably Jewish), who lives in America, and her new friend, Bimi (brown, and presumably Muslim), who has immigrated with his family to Evie’s neighborhood. Bimi and his family are greeted by diverse neighbors who welcome them and of course some who don’t, like Mrs. Monroe. Throughout the story, neighbors help Bimi and his parents, and Evie even gives him her teddy bear. Their neighbor Mrs. Monroe is the only one who does not take to their family, though ultimately she comes around when the children help her with her fallen groceries. The illustrations are simple, but delightful. The colors are vibrant and I particularly loved the details in chairs, hair, and articles of clothing. 
While Judaism is not explicit in A Bear for Bimi, it teaches Jewish values, especially "welcoming the stranger," in a way that is comprehensible for young readers. The back of the book includes instructions for making your own teddy bear as well as a brief acknowledgement of how children could get involved with helping refugees in their area. The book is engaging, and it would be a good read for children and their grown-ups to discuss what is going on in the world today. 
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Reviewer Rachel Simon is a youth services library assistant at the Newton Free Library in Newton, MA. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award committee, and has her Master’s in Library Science and Master’s in Children’s Literature from Simmons University.