The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

Practice; excel; achieve, but never forget where you have come from. Take a little “Jenny from the Block” and mix it with some Lao Tzu (“When you realise there is nothing lacking the world belongs to you”). What do you get? The Bear and the Piano is a coming of age tale to rival the best. It will make your fur stand on end.

David Litchfield takes us on a journey through his magical illustration, playing with light and the passage of time, all the while probing the soul of one very elegant bear. A small bear discovers a strange thing in his forest that makes “an awful sound”. He keeps coming back to the thing “for days and weeks and months and years” until “the sounds that came from the strange thing were beautiful, and the bear had grown big and strong and grizzly”.

Playing music takes the bear away. He starts to dream big dreams, and though the other bears of his forest come to hear him play each night, he feels there is more out there for him. A chance encounter sees a girl and her father discover the bear playing in the forest. They reveal the strange thing is called a piano and beckon him to come with them to the big city where he can play in front of vast crowds, and “Hear sounds so beautiful they will make your fur stand on end”.

Before long, the bear has his name in “big, bright lights” on “The Great White Way”. He sells out concerts; his albums go platinum; he “is a real smash”. “He had fame and awards and all the music in the world but he missed the forest. He missed his old friends. He missed his home”.

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The bear returns to the forest to find the clearing in which his piano once stood is empty. His friends are nowhere to be found. Are they angry with him for having left? Have they forgotten him in his absence? This is an ending to read for yourself. Have no doubt, tears will well.

About Stephanie Cummings

Stephanie Cummings is a former BBC Journalist sharing her lifetime love of children's literature and illustration with her two young daughters -- and now with you, too, through Two in a Tepee. Stephanie has an academic background at the undergraduate level in literature and has master's degrees in both anthropology (material and visual culture) and design. She started her professional life in an art gallery and ended up producing radio programmes for BBC Radio 4, before deciding to become a stay at home mum. She lives with her handsome husband (who is sometimes invited into the tepee) in leafy north London.

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