Bears and their Stories

“It was almost winter and Bear was getting sleepy.
But first, Bear had a story to tell … .”
So begins Phillip Stead’s charming Bear Has a Story to Tell, about a gentle giant who knows about patience and about friendship. Bear approaches Mouse, then Duck, then Frog, in hopes for sharing his story, but each animal is too busy to listen. Soon, Bear, too, succumbs to winter’s spell, and curls up for the season.

Bear awakes with the same desire to tell his story, but first, he goes about sharing thoughtful little gifts: an acorn for Mouse, a mud puddle for Duck, and some sunshine for Frog. At last, all are ready to hear Bear’s story — but he’s forgotten it! His friends, however, offer ideas to help him create a new one, and so the story comes full circle: “It was almost winter and Bear was getting sleepy.”

This sensitive, hopeful story serves to show young ones the value of patience — sometimes, we must wait … for the season to change … for someone to listen … for someone to get still. This picture book reassures children that they, too, have a voice, and they will indeed “get their turn.”  Yet another outstanding work by the talented husband-and-wife team who created the Caldecott winner A Sick Day for Amos McGee.  Share this irresistible story with ages 4 to 7.

Another remarkable pair has created the endearing picture book The Bear in the BookKate Banks again shows her skill in describing events from a child’s perspective, an approach beautifully revealed by Georg Hallensleben’s big, bright images of the furry bear, the child cuddling with his mom, and the fat snowflakes that “began to fall across the pages of the book. The snow sat snugly in the boughs of the trees. The boy could almost feel it.”

In simple, lyrical language, Banks draws humorous and affectionate comparisons between the sleepy black bear and the boy. This lovable little story will engage those ages 3 to 6. And do look for others by this pair, notably Fox and Close Your Eyes, a NYT Best Illustrated Award winner.

Fairy tale lovers will be charmed by Rose Red and the Bear Prince , adeptly retold and illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Based on a Grimm’s folktale that has echoes of the beloved “Beauty and the Beast,” this version features a confident maiden named Rose Red. An only child, she bravely admits a bear that comes knocking at the cottage door one wintry evening. The two become friends, but the bear leaves to seek the wicked dwarf who stole his three treasures. Soon, Rose Red happens to meet the dwarf and even offers to help him; in return, she demands one of the stolen treasures each time. She even manages to break the spell that had turned a handsome prince into the bear, thus bringing about the tale’s happy ending.

With its touches of gilt and its repeated swirls — from Rose Red’s locks to the dramatic tree branches, from ripples of water to the dwarf’s tangled mane — this is an elegant and pleasing edition for ages 7 to 9.

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