The Steads are back with their second collaboration (following Caldecott-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee). This one about a sleepy, altruistic, and unflappable bear. Bear ambles through the woods and fall foliage looking for a friend to share his story with, but everyone he encounters is too busy preparing for winter. Mouse is gathering seeds, Frog is looking for a good place to huddle down, Duck needs to begin his journey south, and Mole is already snoring away in his burrow. But Bear is a patient and thoughtful friend, and instead of becoming unnerved helps out in whatever ways he can, tucking Frog in under a blanket of pine needles, or scooping up an arm full of leaves to aid mouse in his search for seeds.
After winter passes, Bear makes another round of visits. But once all of his friends are gathered to hear his story, he realizes he's forgotten it. "It was such a good story," says Bear, hanging his head. After a quiet moment, mouse comes to his aid, "Maybe your story is about a bear." Then Duck says, "Maybe your story is about the busy time just before winter." "I think there should be other characters too," suggests Frog. "Like a mole," says Mole. And so taking the hint Bear begins his story, and, like the serpent eating its own tail, the first line of the book becomes the last line of the book.
Aside from highlighting the seasonal routines of woodland creatures, the wonderful simplicity of the text, combined with Erin Stead's natural and expressive watercolors makes each character even more endearing after multiple readings, which will inevitably happen given this book's circular and bighearted narrative.
• Find it: Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook Press, 2012)
(Image: Ben Partridge)