Friday, July 01, 2016
The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
A young bear finds a strange thing in the forest. It makes noise when he touches it. It confuses him but he keeps coming back each day. He spends years making noise on the thing until eventually the noise becomes beautiful and the other bears gather around to listen. Then one day some humans arrive and they tell the bear that the strange thing is a piano and the beautiful noise he makes is music. They tell him that he should come to the city where he can play in front of new people and hear music and have wonderful experiences.
I'm stopping my description there because unlike movie trailers, I don't want to give away more than half the story. The Bear and the Piano stands out among the myriad picture books for several reasons. First is the artwork. If the illustrations aren't interesting, I have trouble getting into a picture book. The art is bright, colorful, and a little soft-focus. It's pretty - for lack of a fancier term. Second, the themes of the book are important for children. The bear tries new things, takes chances, and remembers who he is. There is a lot of visual storytelling and some nice vocabulary if you have to explain to an adult why a child should read this. Third, the story is well laid out. Each moment moves the plot along clearly. And since I like it, there is a lump in the throat moment. I give special consideration to any author who can create a moment like that in so few pages. The Bear and the Piano has beautiful art and a sweet story and I don't think there's much else you can ask for from a picture book.
If you like this book, you might like Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae, which touches on a similar subject but from the perspective of finding your talent instead of your talent finding you, also there's a dancing giraffe.