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SCOTT SIMON, host:

How do you keep a mouse out of the house if he really wants to come in? A new book for children called "A Visitor for Bear" explores exactly that old question. It's written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton.

Daniel Pinkwater is our ambassador to the world of children's literature, and he's brought us this fine gem. He joins us from his home in upstate New York. Daniel, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. DANIEL PINKWATER (Author; Radio Commentator): Hi, Scott.

SIMON: You'd think that a big, old bear could keep a little mouse out of his house, right?

Mr. PINKWATER: Well, have you noticed - I sure have noticed, and I'm responsible for some of it - how bears infest children's literature? Even the logo of the publisher, Candlewick Press, that published this book that we're going to do today, a bear.

SIMON: Oh, yes. I just see that.

Mr. PINKWATER: The three bears, the popular Berenstain Bears, a wonderful classic children's book, the bear that wasn't Paddington Bear. I have a theory about this.

SIMON: Yeah, OK.

Mr. PINKWATER: I just made it up. To a little child, bears and adult humans bear a certain resemblance. I think it might be very entertaining to see a bear read adult humans behaving in a ridiculous matter in a book.

SIMON: Because to children, adults are big and lumbering and not always sensible, like bears.

Mr. PINKWATER: Yeah, and bad, smelly and everything else.

SIMON: Yes!

Mr. PINKWATER: The first time this occurred to me is when I got this little polar puppy, this little Inuit dog, who you've meet, Lulu. You know, when she was quite small, I discovered that if I did this sort of Frankenstein walk, she took it very seriously. And I thought, oh, she thinks I turned into a bear.

SIMON: You could be on to something.

Mr. PINKWATER: I don't know. Sometimes I am, and sometimes I'm not.

SIMON: Well, we'll hear from people.

Mr. PINKWATER: But you know, we should just read this very entertaining book. It's "A Visitor for Bear." And do we toss a coin? Or just whoever feels moves starts reading?

SIMON: By all means, you begin.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) No one ever came to Bear's house. It had always been that way. And Bear was quite sure he didn't like visitors. He even had a sign, no visitors allowed.

SIMON: (Reading) One morning, Bear heard a tap, tap, tapping on his front door.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) When he opened his door, there was a mouse, small and gray and bright-eyed. "No visitors allowed," Bear said, pointing to the sign. "Go away."

SIMON: (Reading) He closed the door and went back to the business of making his breakfast.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) He set out one cup and one spoon.

SIMON: (Reading) But when he opened the cupboard to get one bowl...

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) There was the mouse, small and gray and bright-eyed.

SIMON: And in fact, here we do see the bear looking...

Mr. PINKWATER: Very surprised.

SIMON: Exactly. And the apron tied around his belly hardly goes, right?

Mr. PINKWATER: Yeah!

SIMON: It's a nice little touch.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "I told you to leave," cried the bear.

SIMON: (Reading) "Perhaps we could have just a spot of tea."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Said the mouse. "Out!"

SIMON: (Reading) Commanded the bear. "No, sorry."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Said the mouse.

SIMON: (Reading) "I'll be going now."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Bear showed him to the door and shut it firmly.

SIMON: (Reading) Then he went back to the business of making his breakfast.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) But when he opened the bread drawer for one slice of bread...

SIMON: (Reading) There was the mouse, small and gray and bright-eyed. Bear pointed a rigid claw toward the door. "Yes, then, here I go."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Said the mouse.

SIMON: (Reading) "Farewell."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) And the mouse whisked out the door.

SIMON: (Reading) This time, before he went back to the business of making his breakfast, Bear shut the door very, very, very firmly, locked it.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Boarded the windows shut.

SIMON: (Reading) Stopped up the chimney.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) And even plugged the drain in the bathtub.

SIMON: (Reading) Carefully, Bear set about the business of making his breakfast. He opened the cupboard, no mouse. He opened the bread drawer, nothing. He opened the fridge, mouse free.

Mr. PINKWATER: Yes, indeed.

SIMON: (Reading) He lifted the lid of the tea kettle. There was the mouse, small and gray and, well, you know the rest. Bear fell to the floor and wept.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "I give up." He blubbered. "You win. I am undone."

SIMON: (Reading) "So sorry."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Said the mouse.

SIMON: (Reading) "But perhaps if I could have just a bit of cheese and a cup of tea. And do you think we can unstop the chimney and have a nice fire?" Bear blew his nose with a loud honk.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "Then you must go."

SIMON: (Reading) He sniffled.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "No visitors allowed."

SIMON: (Reading) "You have my word."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Said the mouse.

SIMON: (Reading) Bear unshuttered and unboarded the windows.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Unlocked the door.

SIMON: (Reading) Unstoppered the chimney.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) And unplugged the drain.

SIMON: (Reading) He brought out two plates of cheese and two tea cups, and he made a crackling fire in the fireplace for two sets of toes. The mouse warmed his feet and nibbled and sipped. And Bear did, too.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) They sat for a long while. The clock in Bear's house ticked loudly.

SIMON: (Reading) Bear cleared his throat.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) The mouse looked most attentive. No one had ever been most attentive to Bear. "The fire is nice."

SIMON: (Reading) Bear announced. "Lovely."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Said the mouse.

SIMON: (Reading) No one had ever said Bear's fires were lovely.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "I can do a head stand."

SIMON: (Reading) Said Bear. "Very impressive."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Exclaimed the mouse.

SIMON: (Reading) The mouse sat down with his tea cup. Bear quickly lifted the teapot.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "There's plenty more," he said.

SIMON: (Reading) "So sorry."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Said the mouse.

SIMON: (Reading) "Most kind, but I must be on my way."

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "Really, you needn't go."

SIMON: (Reading) Said Bear.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "I am off," said the mouse springing up from his chair.

SIMON: (Reading) "Wait," cried Bear. But the mouse stepped out the door.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "Toodle-oo," said the mouse.

SIMON: (Reading) "Don't go!" wailed Bear, throwing his body across the path.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "But I gave you my word," said the mouse pointing at the no visitor's sign. "Oh, that."

SIMON: (Reading) Cried Bear, pulling down the sign and tearing it up.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "That's for salesman, not for friends."

SIMON: (Reading) "Not for friends?"

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) Asked the mouse, small and gray and bright-eyed.

SIMON: (Reading) Bear nodded. The mouse's bright eyes glowed brighter. Bear smiled.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "Do you like one lump or two?"

SIMON: (Reading) Said Bear most politely.

Mr. PINKWATER: (Reading) "I like two," said the mouse. And Bear agreed.

Sweet book.

SIMON: I loved this story.

Mr. PINKWATER: The illustrations are nice. The bear is expressive. They have a wonderful sort of idyllic country cottage that the bear lives in. And the mouse, of course, is bright-eyed and all that.

SIMON: Yeah. I love the picture of the bear standing on his head, by the way, just for a joke. It's a very nice book, Daniel. Thanks so much for bringing it to our attention.

Mr. PINKWATER: It's a pleasure to handle goods like this, Scott.

SIMON: The book is "A Visitor for Bear" by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. Daniel Pinkwater is the author of many fine books for children and for adults. His latest is "Bear's Picture," which, incidentally, is also one of his oldest. So for the rest of that Bear tale, you can come to our Web site npr.org. Read all about it.

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