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Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Bear and the Piano, written and illustrated by David Litchfield. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast. 2016. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"... the sounds that came from the strange thing were beautiful, and the bear had grown big and strong and grizzly. When the bear played, he felt so happy. The sounds took him away from the forest, and he dreamed of strange and wonderful lands. It wasn't long before the other bears in the forest were drawn to the clearing. Every night, a crowd gathered ... "

The discovery of a piano is the woods is lost on a small bear cub. He has never seen one, and has no idea what it is. He learns quickly that it makes a terrible sound! As he matures and continues to spend his time playing that piano, he is amazed to find that he has a talent for making wonderful sounds come from it. Other bears in the forest are equally impressed with his talent and love to listen to him play for them.

When a father and daughter out for a hike hear him play, they convince his that he should take his talent where it would be truly appreciated. They promise fame and fortune, and a future filled with 'sounds so beautiful they will make your fur stand on end.' Thinking first of his forest audience, the bear knows they will be sad if he leaves; the call of the world is too strong. He agrees to accompany the two back to the city where he attracts fans galore and great admiration.

His dreams realized, he lets his heart dictate his next move. He misses the forest and his friends. He wants to return home. He does so with trepidation, afraid that his friends will not be as happy to see him as he is to see them. What he finds will make your heart sing.

This is a story that will have different meaning when shared with a wide range of readers. Little ones will see if for what it is ... a story of friendship, and imagination. Reading it to older children will have a totally different effect ... a story of music, fame, finding one's place in the world, and home. It will resonate with all who share it!

This is David Litchfield's first book. I am sure it will not be his last. The story is poignant, beautifully written and the artwork is stunning. Done is mixed media, it is textured and infused with light page after page. Filled with emotion, readers will experience all that the bear feels in the forest, in the city, and when he returns home. The warmth of the colors used, the ever-changing design, the lovely telling endpapers ensure that this is another book for my 'keeper' shelf and one to share with those you love.

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