A colleague who knows how much I enjoy good picture books introduced me to A Story for Bear with the words, "I know you will love this book." She was right. The author of A Story for Bear is Dennis Haseley and the illustrator is Jim LaMarche. This picture book, a fantasy for 4 to 8 year olds that seems real, is the story of an unusual friendship between a woman staying in a cabin near the woods and one of the most appealing bears I have ever seen.
A Story for Bear
LaMarche's illustrations in acrylic paint and colored pencil fill the pages with hazy scenes of summer in the woods and the amazing friendship that grows between the woman who sits outside each day reading a book and the bear who is eager "to understand what she was doing as she held the book." Each day, the bear moves further from the woods and closer to the woman, intrigued by her responses to the book. One day, before the woman comes out of the cabin, the bear moves close enough to her chair to reach her books and paw through one. Although he doesn't understand what it is, the bear enjoys the scents and feel of the book.
The bear runs away when the woman comes, but the next day when he ventures close, she calls to him to join her. From then on, each day the woman reads to the bear. Even though he can't understand what the words mean, "...as he listened to the sound of her voice, happiness washed over him like a wave." The bear particularly enjoys the emotion the woman's voice conveys as she reads different sections of the book. When fall comes, the woman leaves the cabin, but the bear discovers she has left her books for him. The bear carefully takes them back to his cave where they remind him of her all through the winter.
The Story's Appeal
The lyrical writing and appealing artwork make A Story for Bear a winner. Despite a somewhat confusing beginning, children enjoy both the story and LaMarche's appealing bear. Adults will appreciate the story, the artwork, the literary illusions, and the way in which both the author and the artist illustrate the importance of reading to the very young. Even when they are too young to understand the words of a story, children will feel the comfort and joy that comes when a loved one shares a story with them, just as the bear does when the woman shares a story with him. (Silver Whistle, Harcourt, Inc., 2002. ISBN: 0152002391)
More Recommended Picture Books
The following picture books are ones that young children tend to enjoy hearing again and again. Happily, they are also books that adults don't mind reading multiple times.
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr, and John Archambault, with illustrations by collage artist Lois Ehlert
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by by Crockett Johnson
- The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, with Illustrations by Crockett Johnson
- The Little House by Virgina Lee Burton
For information about how to read aloud and why it's important, see How to Read Aloud to Your Child and 10 Tips to Help You Raise Kids Who Love Reading. I also recommend Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by popular Australian children's books author and literacy expert Mem Fox.