Written by Martin Waddell, Illustrated by Barbara Firth
Candlewick Press, 2005
Once there were two bears, Big Bear and Little Bear.
The plot in a nutshell: A little bear sets up his own living quarters
While Little Bear is out playing, he discovers a smaller cave above their larger one and he claims it as his own personal cave. When Big Bear comes looking for him, Little Bear shows him his new place, with piles of leaves and twigs set around to represent tables, chairs and a bed. Big Bear helps Little Bear bring his own things up to the little cave and Little Bear spends the whole day there, playing and taking care of his new space. That night, he asks to sleep in his new bed and Big Bear tells him it’s okay and that he will be in their big cave if he needs him. Little Bear lies there alone for a while and then wonders if Big Bear is missing him. He returns to their shared cave and brings a story for Big Bear to read. When Big Bear tells him that he missed him, Little Bear decides to stay. Big Bear reads the story and Little Bear falls asleep in his arms.
This was the last of the five books in author Martin Waddell’s Little Bear series. The inspiration for this story came while visiting the new home of the last of his children to leave home. As an empty nester who has seen all her ‘little bears’ strike out for new caves of their own, I admit to getting a big goofy lump in my throat reading this book. I love the way that Big Bear supports Little Bear’s first foray into independence and that Little Bear turns his own thoughts back to Big Bear later on. The ending is so sweet.
Barbara Firth’s artwork, in watercolor, ink and pencil, couldn’t be more adorable. They have a soft sweetness to them that lightens up the backgrounds, relaxes the details and gives a real tenderness to the characters, especially in the way they look at each other when Little Bear comes back for a story. It’s hard for some parents to let little ones move on and I think books like this can help parents and children alike to support each other along the way.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that it can be tough for everyone when ‘little bears’ move on, but support and trust can help make the transition better.