From Paddington to Winnie the Pooh, from Rupert to Baloo, bears play a huge role in children's books. There are some gorgeous picture books around at the moment with loveable bears at their heart.
Here are a couple of my current favourites!
The Bear and the Piano, written and illustrated by David Litchfield (Frances Lincoln Children's books ISBN: 978-1847807175), is a delightful story about finding success, but staying true to your heart.
It was the illustrations that drew me to this book at first. As soon as I spotted it in the shop, I was struck by the wonderful cover image and the questions it raised. The bear is dressed for a classical performance- the stage and drapes offer the perfect setting for this- and yet... Why are flowers and grass growing around the bear? Why does it look as if sunlight is streaming across the stage, creating a warm glow around him?
This playing with light continues through each illustration- in the forest, the city, on the stage. The layout of each spread compliments the text perfectly, offering details children (and adults!) love to explore.
But this book is not just about the pictures! Firstly, it's about persevering. Bear's first attempt at playing the piano he discovers was not a success, but he tries again and again until he has mastered the instrument. It's also about following your dreams- Bear achieves every success; he takes the opportunity and pursues his piano playing to the highest level. And then, it's about remembering your roots and what's important in life - a much needed message in these days of the 'celebrity'!
The text is simple, but very well written. I used the opening for a SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) session about different forms of the past tense and how they can be used to alter the meaning of a text (sounds thrilling, I know, but we had good fun!). They adored the story and the illustrations, insisting that I finished the book (as if I wouldn't have!) before the end of the session.
A beautiful story, enchanting illustrations and a loveable bear! What more could you ask for?!
Hector and Hummingbird, written and illustrated by Nicholas John Frith (Scholastic ISBN: 978-1407146416), is a lovely story about friendship.
Friends come in all shapes and sizes and Hummingbird and Hector are the best of friends...mostly! We all know someone who chats constantly, who's always chirpy, who's always asking questions! That friend is a breath of fresh air, up-lifting, up-beat...and occasionally a bit too much! Hummingbird is like this. Hector tries to deal with Hummingbird's constant questions and copying nicely, but one day it just gets too much! Hector yells at Hummingbird, asking to be left alone.
That's when Hector comes to realise the value of his little friend and wishes he could change things back to how they had been. Fortunately, Hummingbird is not far away and harmony, if not peace, is restored!
This is such a lovely story about friendship, valuing others and making compromises. Hummingbird is captured perfectly - his little wings seem to flutter off the page as he circles Hector, chatting constantly. His expressions are wonderful- I admire those who can convey such feeling with so few strokes of the pen so much!
The illustrations are a delight and in a different style to many other picture books which makes the book a refreshing change. Children can find Hummingbird on the pages where Hector thinks he is alone and also find other creatures along the way. There is a page at the end asking how many you spotted in the jungle.
A must for home and school, Hector and Hummingbird is a beautiful picture book with a poignant message!
PS It says on his website that Nicholas John Frith went to school just round the corner from Roald Dahl's home. So did I! Not that it's important...