Little Bear by Richard Jones is a beautiful story of learning to love and also of learning how to say goodbye. Told with kindness and understanding this stunning picture book will both reassure and comfort children.
One day a little boy discovers a polar bear in his garden. A tiny polar bear. The bear is so small it can sit in the boy’s hands. The kind child wants to help the tiny bear and takes him home to care for him. Each day over a period of a week the bear grows a little bigger and the friendship between the boy and the bear grows stronger. Eventually the boy realises that it is time for the bear to be taken home. They embark on a journey together. A journey that will end with saying goodbye.
The cover of this tender and extremely lovely book is hard to resist. The small child nestled within the big bear’s fur conveys trust and friendship so beautifully. The striking endpapers in gold tell of the journey the two friends make together and the small boat they travel in appears on the first page too. This gorgeous book deserves a long linger before the story itself starts. The boy and the reader meet the bear on Monday and the bear fills the page opposite the text so the page turn revealing his small size nestled in the boy’s hands in the colourful garden is beautifully executed.
As the story progresses the bond between the boy and the bear is depicted with kindness both in the words and the gentle illustrations. I loved Perdu, the first picture book both written and illustrated by Richard Jones, and this has the same kind feel to it. The story is told by the boy himself and his sensitive attitude to the bear and his welfare is at the heart of this tale. “Can I help you?” asks the boy when he first meets the bear and later on we read that the bear is “curled up tightly, safe and warm in my bag.” The illustrations show the expressions on the faces of the two friends and the caring touches between the two. It is just lovely. There is joy in their friendship and the scenes are playful and happy even when goodbye is inevitable.
This is a story that could be interpreted in many ways. As with any book the reader, or perhaps the listener, brings their own experience to their understanding of the messages contained. A small child may have to say goodbye to a friend or family member for many different reasons and this kind book will both prepare and comfort them. The polar bear is happy to be home again amongst his own and the boy says goodbye safe in the knowledge that the bear loves him still.
I should like to thank Simon and Schuster Children’s Books for my review copy which will be treasured on my bookshelves. This would, I think, make a lovely Christmas present. If you want to find out more about Richard Jones’ books and illustrations you may like to visit his website.