The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

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The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Anne Thompson
Reviewed by Anne Thompson
Summary: A beautifully illustrated debut picture book about nurturing and following your talent, this story also demonstrates the importance of belonging, friendship and those who love and support you. This is highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 40 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781847807175

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Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2016: Illustrated Books

One day a small bear cub finds something strange in the middle of the woods. Not knowing what it is he tentatively touches it with his paw. It makes an awful sound! However the little bear continues to visit the object every day over months and years and gradually the sounds become beautiful and the bear feels happy. The other bears love listening to the wonderful music that he makes and then one day a father and daughter visit the forest and tell the bear he should take his musical talent to the big city. So the bear embarks on a journey to seek his fame and fortune. Although the city is all the bear could possibly have hoped for, something deep inside him is tugging him back home.

I had already had a sneaky peep at a couple of the brilliant illustrations for the delightful debut by David Litchfield and it was these that initially attracted me to the book. Rich colours and the wonderful use of light to highlight the pictures are simply gorgeous and make this a book to savour. The front cover is extremely eye-catching, depicting a stage draped with red velvet curtains in the centre of which the bear, dressed in black tie and tails, sits at the piano, and glimpsed just behind him is the forest, with sunlight shining through the trees. This book absolutely begs to picked up off the shelf! Would the inside match the enticing cover, I wondered? Well, it gets even better. The story is charming, following the young bear as he perseveres with his practice on the piano and gradually realises his own ability. When the dad and daughter suggest leaving the forest to pursue his talent and play grand pianos in front of hundreds of people and hear more beautiful music, rather than feeling afraid of the change the bear worries that the other bears would miss him. However he decides to follow his dream and learn to play better than ever. He is, of course, a great success in the city and enjoys his life there but he misses his old friends and his home in the forest so he decides to return. I thought the ending was very well done being a little unexpected and providing a very lovely finish and a warm glow of satisfaction.

A re-reading allowed a more in-depth look at the illustrations and they are as beautiful as the cover. The way in which the bear's home in the forest is depicted with trees with very tall trunks emphasises the size and makes the reader feel as though they are deep in the trees and far from the outside world. The bears themselves are adorable, without being cuddly teddy bear types they manage to look friendly and appealing. The book as a whole is wonderfully designed with the cover being the stage set for the bear's success and the endpapers depicting the sunlit forest that was his home. The pictures portray the varying scenes of the bear's life vividly and are drawn on a large and dramatic scale however the overall feel is a warm and caring one.

This would be a lovely book to share with young children, being a relatively quick story to read aloud with beautiful pictures for the child to look at as he listened. The story is a charming one to be enjoyed for its own sake but would also open up the opportunity for discussion on many themes with slightly older children. It demonstrates very well how success is not instant and requires hard work and perseverance. The significance of a sense of belonging and home is something even very young children can identify with but this story has the added dimension of illustrating how important it is to support and enjoy the success of other family members or friends too.

This is a very impressive debut by David Litchfield and I will be watching out for his future titles with anticipation. Thank you to the publishers, Frances Lincoln Children's Books for supplying this review copy.

Another picture book about finding talent in unexpected places is the highly recommended Mr Big by Ed Vere.

Booklists.jpg The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield is in the Top Ten Picture Books 2015.

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Buy The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield at


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