One Bear Extraordinaire


  • One Bear Extraordinaire
  • written and illustrated by Jayme McGowan
  • published by Abrams (2015)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Bear wakes up with a song in his head, which is hardly unusual, since this bear happens to be a legend. He’s the rambling musician known as One Bear Extraordinaire. Didn’t you know?

But this morning, his song doesn’t sound quite right. It’s missing something. So bear travels the forest in search of what’s missing….and meets and gathers up other musicians along the way. And, slowly but surely, a band begins to form.

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Even with the help of his new band, Bear’s song is still incomplete. It isn’t until they find that one missing ingredient that everything gels and they learn that every song sounds sweeter when you have friends along for the ride.

What sets this book apart from the pack, though, is Jayme McGowan’s three-dimensional art. It’s what makes this book live up to its name and be extraordinary.

She begins by sketching a pencil outline and then adds details and shades of color with ink, colored pencil, and watercolors. Next, she cuts out each object and carefully assembles the pieces using tweezers and glue to build the characters and scenes, layer by layer. She then stages miniature scenes in a paper theater (that’s roughly the same size as the book) using wire, string, toothpicks, and clothespins to hold everything in place.

Miniature scenes in a miniature theater!! That might be the best thing ever.

Finally, she takes dozens of photographs of the completed scene with a variety of camera settings, lenses, and light.


One Bear Extraordinaire is an artistic jewel that carries a sweet message to boot. And hats off to any book that uses the term twinkle-toed unironically. You have my respect.

Highly recommended.

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(Disclosure: Abrams provided a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.