We're going on a Bear Hunt

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Michael Rosen- About the Author- •    Rosen was born on the 7th of May 1946 in Middlesex, England. •    He grew up with his parents who were keen on him getting a good education and were prominent members of the socialist political community in their area. •    On Rosen’s website, he writes that his formative years had a great impact on his writing- ‘a good deal of my poems are about my life between the ages of about 2 and 12.’ •    He began a medical education at Oxford University but soon changed his degree to English Language and Literature. •    After this, he began writing and has since gained an MA in Children’s Literature, a PhD and was given the title of Children’s laureate from June 2007- June 2009. •    His most famous text is arguably We’re going on a bear hunt, yet much of is work is highly influential such as Michael Rosen’s sad book which deals with bereavement and grief.

About the book- •    We’re going on a bear hunt was published in 1989. •    The story is adapted from an American Folk song and focusses on 5 children and their dog on a bear hunting trip. •    On the way, they travel through varying terrains before finally encountering the bear in its cave. •    Since publication, the book has never been out of print and has sold over 9million copies.

For me We’re going on a Bear Hunt will always be less about the story itself and more about the impact of the actual, physical book. Granted it’s an effective story but it is relatively simplistic. Rosen’s writing, however, is a classic example of memorable literature. The continual titular phrase- We’re going on a Bear Hunt seared into thousands of brains, creating a still-popular story. Coupled with Helen Oxenbury’s drawings Rosen creates an unforgettable and wonderfully simple masterpiece. In the foreword to the 30th Anniversary edition to the book, Oxenbury writes- ‘the wonderful thing about Michael Rosen’s words for We’re going on a Bear Hunt is the space they leave for an illustrator to imagine.’ Although she brings the words to life beautifully, she is completely right about the ‘space they leave for imagination.’ The repeated onomatopoeias throughout- ‘swishy swashy’, ‘splash splosh’, ‘squelch squelch’- leaves plenty of room for a child’s mind to run wild. We are told what creates these sounds and that the family must always ‘go through it’ giving a distinct image. Yet, as a kid you also imagine yourself squelching and squishing through mud, water, grass and everything else in between. Here we see Rosen creating an excitingly deceptive story of bravery- what kid (or adult for that matter) wouldn’t want to go and find a bear?  The family we meet are going and doing something out of the ordinary and realistically quite dangerous but ‘[they’re] not scared.’ Of course, as readers, we aren’t scared for them either and this in part is due to how Rosen writes the story- it’s an adventure. As a child running around the park, I truly thought I was on a bear hunt and not once was I scared because I felt I’d become part of Rosen’s story. It’s this that makes We’re going on a Bear Hunt so special- Rosen teaches us that to be brave is to be creative, have imagination and open a whole host of adventures.