The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazuni Yumoto and Komako Sakai

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The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazuni Yumoto and Komako Sakai

Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: An unusual, beautiful and moving book that helps little ones looks at the emotions surrounding bereavement.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 48 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Gecko Press
ISBN: 978-1877467707

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This lovely picture book dives in at the deep end with its opening sentence of One morning, Bear was crying. His best friend, a little bird, was dead. I must admit I initially wondered what on earth I was reading to my four year old and regretted not skimming it first to check, but as we read on together we discovered a beautiful story of friendship and loss, grief and hope.

Bear makes a pretty box to keep his friend in, and he carries him around everywhere he goes, but the other animals are upset when they see what's inside the pretty box and tell Bear that he must forget little bird as he's never coming back to life. This makes Bear so sad that he looks himself in his house and sits in the dark, alone. One morning he finally opens his door and sees that the sun is shining. He goes for a walk and he meets a wildcat who also has a strangely shaped box. Wildcat says Bear may look inside but then he must show him inside his pretty box.

Bear is cautious, but he does so, and Wildcat looks at the little bird for a long time before saying that the bird must have been a very special friend and that Bear must miss him a lot. Wildcat plays some music for Bear on his violin and as he does so Bear starts to remember all the fun he had with little bird. He begins to come to terms with the little bird's death, knowing that he will always have his memories and little bird will always be his friend. Together they bury little bird and Wildcat suggests that Bear joins him in travelling around the country playing music, giving him an old tambourine that he has in his bag.

Writing the story out in this way reduces it somehow, makes it seem less than it is, for actually this is a carefully, lovingly written story that I found very moving and perfect for creating the opportunity to discuss death and grief with my daughter. The illustrations throughout are black and white, with a very occasional touch of red. They have a soft, dusty feel to them and manage to portray both the desperate, black sadness of Bear when he locks himself away in his house alone as well as the hope in his heart as he sets out with Wildcat to travel and bring music into the lives of others.

I think it's wonderful that the publishers would take the risk to make such an unusual book - no loud colours or rhyming text here - and it's certainly an unusual subject to look at with small children. My daughter has asked for it repeatedly since we first read it though, and I find it just as emotional at each reading. A really beautifully written book - definitely recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For more on dealing with bereavement try The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean.

Buy The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazuni Yumoto and Komako Sakai at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazuni Yumoto and Komako Sakai at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazuni Yumoto and Komako Sakai at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazuni Yumoto and Komako Sakai at Amazon.com.


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