Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Story for Bear

I'm a sucker for two kinds of books: books about reading or books, and books about animals. So when I saw A Story for Bear, written by Dennis Haseley and illustrated by Jim LaMarche I knew I had to read it. This combines my two favorite things, in wonderful ways.

When a bear finds an abandoned letter in the woods he take it home with him because it seems magical. The words don't make sense to him of course but he has a sense of peace when he looks at them. After a long winter of hibernating and staring at the paper, he wanders out into the spring and stumbles upon a cabin. At a chair right at the edge of the woods, sits a woman reading. The bear creeps closer to see the magic symbols over her shoulder. She notices him and over several days lures him to her. And then she starts reading. The bear doesn't understand the story but he feels the same sense of peace as he had with the paper. He returns for more and more stories. As the summer wears on he becomes a regular for story time. But summer ends. One day he returns to find the woman not in her chair. Instead she has left him a stack of books. Slowly he carries each one, gently, to his cave for the winter. And the hope that she will return in the spring.

It doesn't get much sweeter than this story. Haseley tells a story that made me both cry with happiness and at the same time feel completely at peace. Like the bear, I wasn't sure why it made me feel this way but it did. I love the description of him carefully carrying each of the brown, red, green, and black covered books back to his den. Haseley describes how the stories (or at least the way the woman sounds while telling them) stays with him during the day. How he feels that sense of peace when he can hear her speaking in her head. The simple line "For my Bear" brought me instantly to happy tears. Haseley makes us care about both the woman and the bear. And of course the stories. I found myself wanting to be that woman.

LaMarche creates beautiful landscapes and sweet characters with acrylics and colored pencils. He creates a bear that is somewhat realistic but also no where near threatening. I loved the cover image of the woman with her knees pulled up in the chair, reading to her attentive bear. But the natural landscapes that LaMarche creates are just stunning. With almost impressionistic lines he creates a beautiful stream, gorgeous pine trees, and of course a very cute bear. The emotions that he can create with only a few lines are wonderful. The images of the bear sitting surrounded by his books, is one of the most lovely images of the book. And something I would gladly buy a print of to hang on my wall. This book has beauty and emotions in both the story and the pictures. It is a book that celebrates nature and celebrates reading. It's my type of book.