Fine picture books boast bears galore; Baby Bear and the Long Sleep, by Andrew Ward. Illustrated by John Walsh. Boston: Little, Brown &Co. $8.95; Peace at Last, by Jill Murphy. New York: The Dial Press. $7.95.
Regardless of how fierce or loathsome they may be considered in real life, animals in picture books are nearly always presented as cuddly creatures who dress in human clothes and cavort their way through human situations in middle class suburbia.
This season some of the leading citizens are bears -- bears who aren't terribly different from their human counterparts. Two of the books, "Peace at Last" and "Baby Bear and the Long Sleep" deal with the common dilemma of bedtime.
For the bear family in "Baby Bear and the Long Sleep," bedtime is not just a nightly event, it involves a good four months of slumber until spring. Baby Bear, however, would much rather stay up and play.
As a result, his distraught parents spend the next months coaxing him to sleep, a battle that doesn't end until spring, when Mother and Father doze off at the breakfast table.
Baby Bear, of course, is still happily awake. The lively tale is complemented by charming line drawings washed in shades of yellow and brown.
In "Peace at Last" it is Papa Bear who finds sleep elusive. Finally, he stretches out in the family car, where sunrise and awakening birds drive him back into the house and a happy conclusion. The design and full-color illustrations of this book are especially appealing.