bear has a story to tell

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Fall was ending and winter was coming, but before he hibernated, Bear had a story to tell.  Unfortunately, the other animals were too busy to hear the story.  Mouse was gathering seeds and when Bear helped Mouse find lots of seeds, Mouse tunneled underground for the winter.  Duck was getting ready to fly south and all Bear had time to do was check the wind direction for him and say he would miss Duck before he flew off.  Frog too was looking for a warm place to sleep.  Bear helped dig a hole for him to sleep in.  Mole was already way underground and asleep.  So Bear too headed off to sleep.  When spring came, Bear still had a story to share.  Soon his friends were gathered around him to listen, and you will have to read the book to find out what story he shared!

The husband/wife team behind the Caldecott winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee have returned with a book that has a quiet, contemplative beauty that is haunting.  It’s one of those picture books that can be read as a quick bedtime story, but has so much more depth than that.  Bear’s rather lonely start to his hibernation also has a series of close connections to friends.  His spring wake up is filled with a warmth that echoes the seasonal change. 

The writing is gentle and filled with small details that really show the slowing nature of the start of winter.  There is time to count the clouds and look at the color of the leaves, at least for Bear.  The connections between Bear and his many friends are also written with a richness that adds much to the story.  The circular nature of the ending is also an invitation to start the book all over again.  One that readers will be happy to accept. 

Erin Stead’s illustrations have a beautiful delicacy to them.  The rounded shoulders of the very furry Bear show a patience and yet a weight too.  There are moments of celebration, when Bear is rolling in the newly lush grass that are filled with cheer.  It is especially remarkable near the lonely and poignant image of Bear alone as the first snow begins to fall.  Lovely.

It’s the perfect time of year to read this book, ease yourself into the winter months and quietly wish autumn farewell.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.