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We're Going on a Bear Hunt facts for kids

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We're Going on a Bear Hunt
We're Going on a Bear Hunt.jpg
Author Michael Rosen
Illustrator Helen Oxenbury
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Children's literature
Publisher Walker Books (UK)
Margaret K. McElderry Books (US)
Publication date
25 December 1989
Media type Print (Hardcover)
ISBN 0689504764
OCLC 18259147

We're Going on a Bear Hunt is a 1989 children's picture book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. It has won numerous awards and was the subject of a Guinness World Record for "Largest Reading Lesson" with a book-reading attended by 1,500 children, and an additional 30,000 listeners online, in 2014.

Plot and design

Four children plus a baby sister and their dog, are going out to hunt a bear. They travel through grass (Long wavy grass), a river (Deep, cold river), mud (Thick oozy mud), a forest (A big dark forest) and a snowstorm (A swirling whirling snowstorm) before coming face to face with a bear in a cave (A narrow gloomy cave). This meeting causes panic and the family running back home, across all the obstacles, followed and chased by the bear. Finally, the children return to home and lock the bear out of their house. After the bear retreats, leaving the children safe. The children hide under a duvet and saying: "We're not going on a bear hunt again!". At the end of the book, the bear is pictured trudging disconsolately on a beach at night, the same beach that is shown on a sunny day as the frontispiece. Most of the illustrations were painted in watercolour. However, the six pictures of the family facing each new hazard are black and white drawings.

At each obstacle is an onomatopoeic description. Before each obstacle the children chant the refrain:

We're going on a bear hunt.
We're going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We're not scared.

followed by (while crossing the obstacles):

We can't go over it.
We can't go under it.
Oh no!
We've got to go through it!

Characters and location

  • The eldest of the children is sometimes mistaken by readers as being their father but is in fact the older brother. They are based on Oxenbury's own children. Likewise, the dog is modelled on an actual family pet.
  • In the TV adaptation, though not in the book, the mother and father of the family make an appearance. Also, the four older children (unnamed in the book) are identified as Stan, Katie, Rosie, and Max. The baby sister remains nameless. The dog (also anonymous in the book) is called Rufus.
  • Each of the obstacles, apart from the river, is based on a real life location in England and Wales that Oxenbury knew.


The book won the overall Nestlé Smarties Book Prize in 1989 and also won the 0–5 years category. In 1989 it was an 'Honor Book' in the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards. The book also won the 'School Library Journal Best Book of the Year' and the 'Mainichi Newspapers Japanese Picture Book Award, Outstanding Picture Book from Abroad' award. It was highly commended for the 1989 Kate Greenaway Medal.

The publisher, Walker Books, celebrated the work's 25th anniversary in 2014 by breaking a Guinness World Record for the "Largest Reading Lesson", with a book-reading by author Rosen that was attended by 1,500 children, with an additional 30,000 online.


Theatre adaptation

The book has been adapted as a stage play by director Sally Cookson with musical score by Benji Bower and design by Katie Sykes. The play has run in the West End and in provincial theatres. The ending of the performance has been changed so that there is a reconciliation between the family and the bear. Time Out magazine, who awarded four stars out of five, whilst describing the performers as "wonderfully entertaining" also said "those in the later primary years might find it a little boring – not an awful lot happens, after all."

Television adaptation

Channel 4 first aired a half hour animated television adaptation on 24 December 2016. It was voiced by Olivia Colman, Mark Williams, and Michael Rosen, in the US dub, the characters are voiced by Anna Faris and Jimmy Kimmel, and Michael Rosen keeps his UK dub. The Daily Telegraph, giving the programme three stars out of five, commented that "The whole thing was skilfully made, but ... did it need to take such a carefree story and cast a pall of gloom?". However, The Guardian said that adaptation was "sumptuous", "prestigious" but that "The animation adds a dose of festive sadness."

Mobile app

A mobile app, based on the book, was launched in December 2016. It is available on Amazon, Android, and Apple platforms.

Cultural impact

In 2013, the novelists Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees wrote a bestselling parody of the book, called We're Going On A Bar Hunt, which was illustrated by Gillian Johnson in the style of the original and was published by Constable books and then republished by Little, Brown & Company.

"Bear hunts"

During the COVID-19 pandemic, "bear hunts" became popular with houses across the United States, Belgium, Netherlands, and Australia placing stuffed bears in windows, in front yards, or on mailboxes for children to look for and find during walks or drives.

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