Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bear Has a Story to Tell

Horn Book (September/October, 2012)

What good is a story without listeners? Bear wants to share one before he hibernates, but his friends are too busy preparing for winter -- Mouse collecting seeds, Duck heading south, while Mole is already asleep. So, gentle and uncomplaining, Bear helps them as he can, then sleeps too. Come spring he tries again, warming up his audience with thoughtful gifts like an acorn for Mouse and a spot of sunshine for Frog. But now Bear has forgotten his story! No worries: with some prompting from the others (Duck: "Maybe your story is about the busy time just before winter"), Bear begins with a reprise of the book’s first line: "It was almost winter and Bear was getting sleepy." Bear’s patient acceptance of his friends’ ineluctable needs (and the reciprocity that finally engenders the story that proves to be this one) make for a perfectly cyclical read-it-again bedtime book. Erin Stead’s scenes of sleepy, soft-edged creatures floating on imagination-freeing white among a few bare trunks and drifting autumnal leaves are nicely counterpointed by gentle night skies and touches of soft spring green. Quietly entrancing. joanna rudge long

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