Bear Has a Story to Tell

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Bear Has a Story to Tell Book Poster Image
Gentle story of friendship, patience, and storytelling.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Kids learn that bears hibernate for the winter and how a few other animals prepare for the season. 

Positive messages

Sometimes you need to be patient, and your friends can help you create a story if you forget the one you were going to tell. 

Positive role models & representations

All the animals are diligent in their winter preparations and kind and polite to Bear, even when saying no, you must wait until I'm not too busy to listen (sound familiar, parents?). 

Violence & scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bear Has a Story to Tell is a gentle, innocent picture book by the team that created A Sick Day for Amos McGee, which won the 2011 Caldecott Medal. It shows a bear trying to tell each of his animal friends a story before he goes to sleep for the winter, but they're all too busy with their own preparations to listen. He has to wait the whole winter; then, when he awakes from hibernation, he's forgotten what he was going to say. But his friends kindly prompt him to create a story starring all of them. He begins with the line that starts the book: "It was almost winter, and Bear was getting sleepy."

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What's the story?

As winter approaches, Bear is getting sleepy. Before he beds down for the winter, he has a story he wants to tell his friends. But each friend -- Mouse, Duck, Frog, Mole -- is busy getting ready for winter, too, and is too busy to hear Bear's story. He must wait until spring. When he awakes, he's excited to finally get to tell his story; he gathers his friends around, but finds he's forgotten what he wanted to say. His friends offer their suggestions, which reflect all their individual preparations for winter.

Is it any good?

BEAR HAS A STORY TO TELL is a gentle story that's perfect for reading aloud and perfect for bedtime. Its messages about patience and friendship shine through spare, realistic watercolor-and-pencil illustrations that capture animals in their habitats, fall leaves, and the wonder of a cool winter sky as the first snowflakes begin to fall.

Bear looks sleepy and melancholy for the first half of the book, then subtly happy as he rejoins his friends in spring. There's lots to talk about with kids, from animal hibernation to the joy of collaborating on a story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how fun it is to make up stories and share them with friends and family. Have you ever made up a story where the characters were your friends in real life?

  • If you read the other book by this author-illustrator team, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, how do you think Bear Has a Story to Tell compares? 

  • What other animals besides bears hibernate for the winter? 

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