Written by Philip C. Stead, Illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Roaring Brook Press, 2012
It was almost winter and Bear was getting sleepy.
The plot in a nutshell: Bear looks for someone to share his story with, while helping his friends prepare for winter
Bear wants to share his story, so he goes looking for a friend. Mouse is too busy gathering seeds to listen, so Bear helps him find seeds. Duck is getting ready to fly south, so Bear checks the direction of the wind and tells him that he will miss him. Frog is looking for a warm place to sleep so Bear digs a hole and tucks Frog in under some leaves and pine needles. He goes to look for Mole, but Mole is already sleeping. The snow begins to fall, so Bear goes to his home to sleep. When the spring comes, he is excited, because now he can tell his story. He brings Mouse an acorn and welcomes Duck home. He puts Frog in the sunshine to warm him while he wakes up. Then all the friends go to wait for Mole to wake up. When everyone is gathered, Bear starts to tell his story and realizes he doesn’t remember it. Mouse suggests that the story may be about a bear and Duck adds that it could be set just before winter. Frog and Mole suggest adding other characters, like a mole, mouse, duck and frog. So Bear begins his story with the opening line of this book.
Author Philip C. Stead has given us another beautiful story about friendship. This one also touches on patience, the nature of storytelling and the way we all have a part in each other’s life stories. I imagine that kids will identify with Bear, as little ones often find themselves brimming with stories that the adults around them are too busy to hear. I love that Bear doesn’t get upset with his friends and instead, tries to help them with whatever is taking up their time and attention. And the ending is just so lovely and perfect, taking us back to the beginning of the story again from a new perspective.
The artwork, from Erin E. Stead, matches the story’s optimistic charm with illustrations that are the visual equivalent of a cozy blanket on a cold night. The majority of the book takes place right at the end of autumn, which offers my favorite of nature’s color palettes. Bear is drawn so expressively, with lovely indications of his emotions in his body language. The image of him rolling on the ground under the sun when he wakes up after his winter hibernation practically makes you feel the warmth and comfort of the sunshine. I hope the Steads, like Bear, will always have stories to tell.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, when we care for each other, we all become part of each other’s best stories.