This story and its main character- an expressive, furry bear- have wholly and completely stolen my heart. The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield has gotten significant buzz in the literary world, and it was one of those books I feared would end up disappointing me. To say it lived up to the hype is an understatement and does not do this book justice. It blew me away with both its understated yet compelling narrative and its illustrative beauty.
In this story, a bear happens across a piano in the woods. He strikes the keys, hears an awful sound, and walks away. But he returns to the instrument day after day and eventually becomes a phenomenal piano player, making music for his friends in the woods. One day, a girl and her father hear him playing and tell him of the big city where there are grand pianos and hundreds of people to listen to his music. With a longing for this experience, the bear follows them there. Before long he is famous in the city, playing sold out concerts and winning prominent awards. But despite his fame, the bear eventually comes to miss his home, and so he returns to his place in the woods where he is greeted with love and pride by his friends who have been cheering him on from afar.
Oh, this book! Its simple but profound text tugged at my emotions. The rich, mixed-media illustrations seem to have their own heartbeat underneath your fingers, and the manner in which Litchfield is able to capture the bear's emotions both through text and art is priceless. This book, in so many ways, breathes magic. It reminds us of the importance of spreading your wings and following your dreams, while never forgetting where you come from. The Bear and the Piano epitomizes the reason I love stories and the reason I hope to impart my love of reading to my boys. Simply put: Perfection.
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