Synopsis of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" by Eric Carle

by Jamie Farber

"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See" was the first book Eric Carle illustrated.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" is a classic children's book, originally published in 1967. As of 2011, more than 11 million copies of the book are in print, in several different languages and formats, according to the website Brown Bear and Friends. The book has also been turned into a song, a cartoon and even a board game. The book's popularity with both critics and children has endured for more than 40 years.

Storyline -- Spoilers Included

"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" uses rhyming questions and answers to keep children engaged in the story. On each page, drawings of animals with the question "(Animal, animal), what do you see?" appear, followed by the animal's answer, "I see a (another animal name) looking at me." The pictures on the page is of the animal talking and the the animal that is seen is featured on the next page. For example, the brown bear on the first page sees a red bird; on the next page, the red bird is the animal being questioned. At the end of the book, we discover a teacher is asking the questions, and her students are the ones who are responding. Each child is pretending to be a different animal, which explains some of the unique color choices for the animals, including the blue horse.

Author and Illustrator

"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" was written by Bill Martin, Jr., and illustrated by Eric Carle. The book is often attributed just to Carle, but that is not correct. The two collaborated on several different books, including three sequels to "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?": "Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?," "Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?" and "Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?" Both men have also authored several other children's books separately, and Carle has illustrated many other children's books by different authors.


"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" has been praised by critics since its initial publication in 1967. Booklist says the "rhyme and repetition will appeal to preschoolers," while the "collages bursting with color are perfect for the text." The popularity of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" has led to the book's being published in picture book, board book, and easy reader formats.

Teaching Tools

The classic children's book is used regularly in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Whether you are reading "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" at home with your children or in a classroom setting, there are several activities that can be used to enhance the experience. Consider printing out coloring sheets of the different animals in the story. Let the children color the pictures and create their own version of the story. The pictures can also be cut out and mounted on wooden craft sticks to create puppets. Let the children retell the story using the puppets. You can also create felt versions of the different animals for use on a felt board. Children can tell the story with the board or use the felt figures and board while you read the book out loud.

Photo Credits

  • Jason Kempin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images