30 January 2008
Illustrator Jim LaMarche visited my daughter's school last year, and I wish I had been familiar with this book then, because I would love an autographed copy! This book encapsulates what readers already know: that although reading is generally a private occupation, there is an immensely rewarding bond that develops when a story is shared. That why readers tend to gush about books they like, or even dislike. You just can't keep a story to yourself. Similar ground is covered in Sandy Asher's Too Many Frogs! (one of my all time favorite story time books) but with more laughs--and frogs. A Story for Bear is a gentler book, contemplative and peaceful and well suited to the woodland setting. It starts with a flame-colored bear, softly glorious in watercolor and acrylic, who finds a piece of paper in the woods. There are words on the paper, although the bear has no idea what they say, or even what they are. But he treasures it and wonders over it. One day he happens upon a woman reading to herself. When she takes a break and goes into her cabin, the bear investigates her abandoned book, noticing the marks so like those on his paper. The next day he ventures back, and so starts a ritual where the woman reads to the bear, all through the summer. This book walks a fine line between anthropomorphizing and reality. But like music soothing the savage beast, there is no denying the spell that the woman's reading casts upon the bear. The woman shared her story with bear, and now I share their story with you.