A Story for Bear

( 4 )

Overview

When a young bear finds a scrap of an old letter, he is so curious about the mysterious marks that he searches out their source—a cabin in the woods. There he meets a young woman and is mesmerized by the sound of her voice. Though he cannot understand her words, he returns every day to hear the woman's stories of sailors, goddesses, and far-off lands.
Dennis Haseley's magical fantasy and Jim LaMarche's ...

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Overview

When a young bear finds a scrap of an old letter, he is so curious about the mysterious marks that he searches out their source—a cabin in the woods. There he meets a young woman and is mesmerized by the sound of her voice. Though he cannot understand her words, he returns every day to hear the woman's stories of sailors, goddesses, and far-off lands.
Dennis Haseley's magical fantasy and Jim LaMarche's luminous illustrations together celebrate the joy of reading. A book sure to delight any child who has ever been read to.

A young bear who is fascinated by the mysterious marks he sees on paper finds a friend when a kind woman reads to him.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Haseley's (Kite Flier) wistful tale of a bear beguiled by a woman he befriends one summer, inconsistencies render the events more puzzling than haunting. The narrative begins from the bear's point of view, as he first discovers "something lying on the ground," which readers can see is a letter. On the next spread, the narrative voice shifts: "Through the years, the bear looked at the paper with wonder it seemed as far away and mysterious as the moon." Next, the text switches to the main action: the bear observes a woman outside her cabin, carrying something he can describe only as "a mysterious square thing." However, in the next sentence he identifies it: "He [tried] to understand what she was doing as she held the book." The tug-of-war in point of view continues as the woman begins to read aloud to the bear. At the end of her stay, she leaves her books for him (even though he cannot read), and he takes them back to his cave, where they provide him with comfort all winter. LaMarche's (The Raft) shimmering pastel spreads go far to carry the tale over its rough spots. The artwork conveys the bear and the woman in growing intimacy, their heads drawing closer together over the shared books. Nature scenes chronicle the passing of the summer; in the sky behind them, geese fly south, hinting at her departure. Yet LaMarche alone cannot clarify the narrative. Some children may find the magic in this peaceable kingdom, but more will be left outside, wondering what to make of it. Ages 5-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
A young bear finds a piece of paper with writing on it in the woods one day. He muses about it over the next few years wondering what it could possibly be. One day while traveling through the woods his nose leads him to a cabin in the woods. On his arrival, he sees a woman sitting in a chair outside, looking at something that has those same marks that he saw on the paper in the woods. As the lady turns more pages with writing on it, the bear hears her laugh. He returns to the cabin on numerous occasions to witness this strange occurrence. On one such occasion, the lady goes inside, and bear takes a closer look at the strange vehicle that holds these strange marks. The lady catches the bear looking at her book and invites the bear to stay as she reads aloud. This occurs on many occasions, until one day when the leaves have turned gold, the lady is no longer there. But, she has left bear a gift of all of her books. One by one, he takes the books to his den for safe keeping over the Winter, dreaming of the days when the lady will return to read stories to him, again. Having just watched National Geographic's program on wild bears before reading this book, I found a bear as a strange choice of animals to treat in such an intimate fashion. While the colored chalk drawings and story are charming, it seems necessary to assure the young reader that this is strictly make-believe. 2002, Harcourt,
— Meredith Kiger
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-A young bear finds a piece of paper with black marks on it in the woods and keeps it for several years, wondering about its meaning. One summer, he wanders farther than usual and discovers a cabin in a clearing, and a woman holding a mysterious square thing in her hands. He returns day after day, his curiosity compelling him closer to her. One afternoon, she invites him to sit with her. Thus begins a daily routine of the woman reading aloud to the bear, who cannot understand the words, but is mesmerized by the tones and melodies of her voice. The bear is anthropomorphized, but still a believably realistic wild bear. LaMarche's illustrations, done in warm tones of acrylic and colored pencil on watercolor paper, back up this realistic tone. There are a couple of awkward elements in the plot, the most obvious of which is the letter that begins the story and reappears in the middle but is never explained. However, children are not likely to notice the snags, but will focus instead on the gentle warmth of the story.-Heather E. Miller, Homewood Public Library, AL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A tender, if unlikely, episode that affirms the value of both the written and the spoken word. When a bookish young woman, summering alone in a rustic cabin, sees that a curious bear is spying on her, she calmly begins reading aloud. Day after day the bear returns to hear more, not understanding the words, but responding to the feelings and expression in the woman's voice. At summer's end, she leaves her books behind, so the bear carefully carries them to his den, hearing as he sleeps among them, her voice "telling him a tale of adventure, and magic, and love." Reflecting the story's mystical air, LaMarche's (Albert, 2001, etc.) woodland scenes are all hazy edges and diffuse light; his fine-featured, casually dressed reader projects an air of serenity unruffled by the huge, shaggy ursine listener crouching at her feet. Despite the bear's bulk, there's never a hint of tension or danger; instead, Haseley's measured prose and the illustrator's warmly harmonious palette combine to imbue the (seemingly) ordinary act of sharing a book with a deep sense of wonder. And adults willing to look beneath the surface will find a message about the value of reading to preverbal children, too. (Picture book. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152002398
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 160,107
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 630L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.98 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

DENNIS HASELEY has written many fine books for children, including the acclaimed Kite Flier and The Old Banjo. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

JIM LAMARCHE is the illustrator of Albert, which Publishers Weekly called, in a starred review, "a magical marriage of art and text." He lives in Santa Cruz, California.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 1, 2013

    HIGHLY recommended!!

    I red this book aloud to a second-grader when she was tired during her tutoring hour, and she cuddled up and listened attentively. At the end she sighed and said: That was a LOVELY story! It is an all-ages book for book lovers. The illustrations are magically beautiful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2005

    A mesmerizing tale for all would-be readers

    Bears can't understand language. Or can they? In this gentle fantasy, a bear finds a letter in the woods, puzzles over its markings and brings it to his cave; he's tantalized by it. When he meets a woman reading books in the woods by her cabin, they begin an unusual friendship. She reads to him daily. 'All the words she read made a story. A story for her bear.' And when she departs for the winter, she leaves her books behind for her friend, who takes them, one by one, to his cave. He's soothed by them during the long winter months - no mention of hibernating; this is a fantasy. 'And while he slept, he heard her voice, gentle and near. She was telling him a tale of adventure, and magic, and love. And...before she came back in the spring, whenever he put his nose to the pages or touched the covers with his claws, she was there.' The story is haunting, but it's the illustrations that imbue the tale with such power and grace. The bear is adorable. The pine woods are lovely. This book does what good storybooks do: transport the reader to another place. You can smell the pine straw on the forest floor, imagine the roughness of the bear's coat, feel the chill in the autumn air. Best of all, you feel the strong bond between the book's two characters. Those who enjoy A Story For Bear might also enjoy another beautifully illustrated picture book: Ruby Lee the Bumble Bee - A Bee's Bit of Wisdom. It concerns a young girl uncertain of her abilities who finds encouragement and friendship from a bumble bee. Books like A Story For Bear and Ruby Lee The Bumble Bee teach that friendship can come in many forms.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2004

    A Great Book for Nature Loving, Avid Readers!

    With soft illustrations evoking warm memories of lazy days in the woods, this is a heartwarming tale of the friendship between a young woman and a bear based on their shared love of books. Written from the bear¿s perspective, it is easy to draw analogies between the bear and young children. Both may not be able to read, but both can grow to love books when they are read aloud to them on a regular basis. Here, the bear becomes intrigued watching he young woman reading to herself in the woods day after day. Slowly coming closer, she notices him and begins reading her books aloud to him and he moves ever closer developing a love of her stories. The book¿s only flaw is the inclusion of a letter to the woman from her parents at the beginning and end. It adds little and complicates the otherwise simple plot line. But, LaMarche¿s superb, acrylic paint and colored pencil illustrations are flawless. He brilliantly captures the natural beauty of the forest in summer and fall, the loving expressions of the young woman, and the gentle, curious character of the bear. Recommended for ages 5 to 10 and highly recommended for those that are book and/or nature lovers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2002

    A Must Read for all Book Lovers

    This was a beautifully written and illustrated book. I cried as I read the words on the page in the bookstore. The woman and bear make such an emotional bond through the use of reading. This is what we try to convey to our children and students when we read aloud to them, reading for the love of it. I have worked with a large group of third graders who I will also be working with next year in fourth grade. This will be a great send off for the summer to inspire the children to read what they love. This is a must for any teacher to have.

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