Written by Marsha Diane Arnold, Illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Roaring Brook Press, 2015
The plot in a nutshell: A bear loses his scarf in a storm.
The bear’s red scarf blows off in the wind and is found by two raccoons, who get into a fight over it. The fight escalates to the point where they drop the scarf and one chases the other into the woods. A beaver finds it and wraps it around his head, like a big turban. But it gets caught on a tree branch and he loses it, too. An otter swings on it, but it pulls off the branch and ends up in the river, where the otter floats away. A fox wants to wear it, but it’s too wet, so he spreads it across some shrubs to dry. Mice use it as a trampoline, but get bounced away. A pair of weasels tie it between two trees to play a game of volleyball, but squirrels chase them away. The squirrels swing on the scarf, but get thrown when the swing flips. The scarf flies into the air and when it comes down, all the animals leap on it at once and when the bear returns, it’s been torn to pieces. He gathers up all the yarn and sets to reknitting the scarf and all the animals help. The book ends with all of them sitting around a fire, with the scarf joining them all.
The two words in the title are the only two words in this book (not counting sound effect words), but they are repeated throughout as the red scarf finds itself lost and found over and over again. Author Marsha Diane Arnold manages to keep this simple premise interesting and engaging, making you wonder who will find it next and how they will use it. It becomes so intriguing, in fact, that you find yourself getting really attached to the scarf and when the bear comes back and finds it destroyed, the look on his face mirrors the way you feel yourself.
Matthew Cordell’s artwork is done in pen and ink with watercolor with an almost careless comical energy. The illustrations look hastily drawn (and I don’t mean that in a bad way), as though he’s trying to sketch all of this as it’s happening in front of him and he doesn’t have a lot of time for detail. As each animal loses the scarf, you can see the approaching character who will find it next and I love the picture of the scarf landing in the middle of the forest, where you can see all the animals looking at it from different spots. Bear’s reaction is my favorite, though. Without getting angry or despondent, he just sets to work repairing the damage and soon, everyone is pitching in to help. There’s a broader message that’s beautifully expressed here that what these characters have actually found is a sense of community and a group of friends. This one grows on me more every time I look at it.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that when everyone loves something and they take care of it together, they can all share in the joy of having it.