A boy and his mother set up their tent on a camping trip, with illustrator Véronique Joffre providing all the salient details that will come into the story later: the boy's bike, a big dumpster with an open lid, and — so small you don't notice them until rereading — a mother and baby bear walking toward the dumpster. From this wordless beginning, Joffre and author Andrée Poulin start giving degrees of being scared. Perched on a branch, waiting to jump into the lake where his mother's arms are outstretched to catch him, the boy is "a little scared." Similarly, the baby bear, is "a little scared" while poised on a branch getting ready to jump on to the dumpster.
With interludes for dinner — which includes the little bear snacking in the dumpster — the degrees of "scared" keep ratcheting up. The boy carries the family's garbage to the dumpster, where he encounters the mother bear: "He's very scared"! So is the baby bear, now stuck in the dumpster.
Much of the story then proceeds in clear, straightforward pictures as the mother scopes out the scene with binoculars after the boy speedily bikes back to tell her what he's seen. The two load a log on to their truck and drive up the dumpster, honking their horn to scare away the mama bear. But being very scared isn't stopping the boy's mother from hefting the log into the dumpster as an escape route for the little trapped bear ... and you can imagine how everyone's fear level drops to "no longer scared" as the bear escapes at last.
Written for 3 - 7 year olds, this simple tale serves a triple purpose. It offers children reassurance that the grown-ups in their lives may know what to do to remedy a scary situation. It helps children perceive and articulate the difference between "a little scared," "very scared," and "no longer scared." And It suggests a sympathy between us and the natural world — that we're not alone in our fears. Like Pat Zietlow Miller's When You Are Brave, it makes the world less scary by showing that in fearful moments there's often something to be done that lessens danger, boosts courage, and even fosters kindness to our kin — four-footed or otherwise.