Written and Illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books, 2008
By the time Old Bear fell asleep for the winter, it was snowing hard.
The plot in a nutshell: A hibernating bear dreams of spring.
As he sleeps in his cave, Old Bear dreams that it’s spring. In his dream, he’s a young cub and the flowers are big enough for him to take a nap inside. Then he dreams of summer, with a daisy sun and butterfly leaves and blueberry rain. When he dreams of autumn, everything is washed in fall colors. His dreams of winter cover the whole world with ice and there are stars of all different colors. When he wakes up, it feels like hardly any time has passed. When he looks outside to see if it’s still snowing, he sees a beautiful spring day and wonders if he’s still dreaming.
This story may seem really simple, but author/illustrator Kevin Henkes packs a lot of concepts into this story and what you take away from it will likely depend upon a lot of personal factors. On the surface, it’s a story about a bear sleeping through the winter, but it’s also about the seasons and the passage of time and youth and age and our perceptions of the world and even the recuperative power of a good night’s sleep. His artwork is so expressive, showing us Bear aging from a cub to an adult as he moves through the seasons in his dreams. The colors are gorgeous and just surreal enough to pass for dream images. The lovely images of him when he wakes up show a bear who seems full of energy and vitality, ready to take on the world. I loved this book and am now considering hibernating this winter.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that dreams can be wonderful, but there’s nothing as amazing as the real world.