The Bear and the Piano

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
The Bear and the Piano Book Poster Image
Enchanting book about the love of music and the tug of home.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Some of the art has text embedded -- in signs, programs, marquees, headlines -- which could add to word recognition. Detail about the life of a concert pianist.

Positive Messages

It's possible to pursue one's artistic interests in ways that broaden your horizons while also maintaining a connection to and love for your original family and community; the two aren't mutually exclusive. Developing your talents leads to satisfaction and success. We can commemorate and support those we're proud of. Music makes us happy, and it's important to have it in our lives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The bear pursues his musical and artistic interests and talent but also maintains a love for and connection to his home and original community. The bear community is proud of its talented member, even though they're sad he's had to leave them to nurture his talent.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield is a beautiful and moving book about the power of music and the abiding love of home and family. After a bear who finds an abandoned piano in the forest becomes an acclaimed concert pianist, he returns home to play for the bears who originally encouraged and supported him. The story deftly handles the conflicted emotions of leaving family and home to pursue your interests, offering an encouraging story of a bear who opts to leave home to develop his talent but is also able to maintain ties with loved ones. A sweet, tear-inducing story celebrating art and connection.

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What's the story?

In THE BEAR AND THE PIANO,  a young bear finds a piano that's inexplicably sitting in a clearing in the forest. He touches it, makes a sound, and keeps coming back "for days and weeks and months and years, until eventually the sounds that came from the strange thing were beautiful." His bear friends gather in the clearing to listen, but then he's discovered by a girl and her father, who take him to the big, bright city where he plays "sold-out concerts in giant theaters." The bear loves music but also misses home. When he travels back to the forest, he's afraid the other bears are angry at him for leaving. But then he discovers that they've kept his piano safe in the shade and pinned his playbills and reviews on the tree behind it, so he sits down to give another concert: "This time, for the most important audience of all."

Is it any good?

This lovely picture book celebrates the transcendent power of art and the importance of maintaining connection with friends and family. The illustrations are beautifully evocative, with dreamlike light filtering through the trees in the forest contrasting with busy, darker-hued pages of success in the bustling city. Author-illustrator David Litchfield is based in the United Kingdom, but the city appears to be New York City, with mention of "Broadway" and street signs depicting the intersection of Broadway and West 58th Street.

The message is artfully subtle, never clunky or heavy-handed, and the takeaway for kids may be unconscious, calming any anxieties about following their deepest desires and dreams, and reassuring them that they'll be loved and supported even as they go forth.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music. What kind of music do you like? Why do you think all the bears and people in the city like music and gather to listen?

  • Families can also talk about learning to play an instrument. Does it take time and practice? How does the story convey that?

  • Can you think of ways that your own family and friends are proud of you? Do you like to save souvenirs of the things you've accomplished or done?

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