Wandering past a single book, I notice the gentle turn of the bear’s head. His eyes examining a mallard who seems to return the inquisitive look. Captured with curiosity, I decide to examine, Bear Has a Story to Tell (Roaring Brooks Press, 2012) written by author and illustrator power-couple, Philip and Erin E. Stead. Bear Has a Story to Tell follows their Caldecott Medal winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee (Roaring Brooks Press, 2010). Like Amos (2010), Stead’s story of friendship engages readers of all ages with delicate illustrations, charming conversations, and expressive characters.
Erin Stead’s skill in combining pencil and watercolor creates animals hosting contemplative emotions to which the reader connects.
From the beginning moments, when Philip introduces the reader to a tired Bear under a white sky of scattering leaves, the reader attaches to Bear. Bear begins his last attempt to share a story before hibernation and winter take hold and separate his forest friends for the season. As he plods along meeting friend after friend, their preparation for winter distracts him from his story. Mouse scurries for seeds, Duck waddles to fly south, and Frog needs a perfectly sized hole for a winter-resting frog. With fewer leaves tumbling, but not quite ready for bed, Bear plods to Mole. Turning the book, the reader recognizes that Erin’s illustration shows Mole who seems to be soundly sleeping deep in the ground. Bear shows brief disappointment, but almost a satisfaction after attending to the urgencies of the busy friends. He cuddles into his den as the snowflakes begin to fall and the sky gradually brightens with blue. Spring arrives and Bear celebrates the opportunity to sit and share a story with his forest friends. In the light of a brilliant full moon, Bear seizes the opportunity, but recognizes that, “Winter is a very long time for a bear to remember.” His forest friends complete the true tale of friendship and cooperation as they guide him until he begins, “It was almost winter and Bear was getting sleepy.”
The Stead duo created a not-to-be missed heart-warming tale entwining the tale of friendship and eloquent illustrations. Once will not be enough for this engaging, beautiful circular story.