Bear Has a Story to Tell Review

Bear Has a Story to Tell“Be patient!” is a phrase I tell my children many times throughout the day, ironically often in an impatient voice.  It’s a difficult concept for children to embrace, let alone adults for that matter, who balk at the size of a line longer than just ourselves.  We are a society living by the mantra, “I want it and I want it now!”  Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead, is a lovely counterpoint to all the impatience around us.  It teaches patience to children and adults without being preachy.  The flow of the words and soothing illustrations are utterly relaxing, despite Bear wanting the attention of his friends and not getting it until the following spring.  By then, he’s forgotten what his story was and his friends are as patient with him as he was with them, to help him remember it.

Throughout the story, Bear handles his friends’ immediate need to prepare for the upcoming winter in the most graceful way, by helping them with their tasks or simply moving on to his next friend.  He doesn’t get mad first and need to calm down.  I really appreciate that about the story.  Being angry is of course okay, but not getting there in the first place is even better.  Children who don’t get angry about something in the first place are in a sense “pre-calming” themselves.  I’d venture to say that pre-calm children make for pre-calm and peaceful adults.  There are lots of reasons to grow impatient, but if we divert our energy to helping and moving on rather than to irritation, the anger doesn’t develop in the first place.

I also appreciate that his friends aren’t annoyed or bothered by Bear when he approaches.  They calmly explain to him that it isn’t a good time for them to listen.  The lesson being- there’s only a conflict when we create one.  A book without major conflict might sound boring, but who needs conflict when you are absorbed in a relaxing book with your child.

Bear went with the flow of the day understanding his friends were busy with important tasks, instead of trying in vain to meet his own needs to tell something that was on his mind.  For children, not saying what’s on their mind can be very difficult, so understanding why Bear stayed calm might be eye-opening.  Questions then to consider might be: Why do you think Bear didn’t get mad, even though he had something important to share?  Why did Bear put his friends’ needs before his own?  What did Bear do instead of getting mad? How did his friends react when they didn’t have time for Bear’s story?  Questions to apply to their own lives might be: What are things that are really hard for you to wait for?  What can you do if Mom, Dad, or your teacher aren’t able to listen to your story until later?  How can you respond to someone else when you aren’t able to listen right then?

Hopefully after some readings of this book and some good discussions, your children might find some new ways to embrace the Bear in them.  The irony of embracing the Bear in them is also quite poetic.  For that matter, us adults, too.  Something to consider when we’ve been put on hold yet again to resolve a bill or there’s a grocery cart in front of us at every turn in the store.  Be a bear and get angry, or be a Bear, and instead call back later or look around to notice that for the moment, your children are gleefully snacking while the parent in front of you has two young, impatient children and could use a skip in line to get out of the store ASAP.

For future reading: The Steads are one of my “go-to” spots in the library.  Philip Stead and his wife Erin teamed up for another fantastic book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, the 2011 Caldecott winner. Mr. Stead has also both written and illustrated a number of books (A Home for Bird is a favorite) and Mrs. Stead has illustrated two other books written by Julie Fogliano.


4 thoughts on “Bear Has a Story to Tell Review

  • Stacie Theis

    What a wonderful story! This sounds like a great read for children as well as adults. I agree that we are often times in such a rush that little things make us angry. Bear is wise to remain calm and go with the flow. A perfect example for us all! Love the illustrations on the cover too.

    • Liz Cave Post author

      Thanks so much for your comments :) My “picture-book-quest” is to find books my kids and I both learn from and love. Erin Stead is one of my favorite illustrators and it’s no wonder why she won the 2011 Caldecott.

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