The Bear, The Piano and Little Bear’s Concert is the latest (and last of this series?) book in a series of books about musical animals from author and illustrator David Litchfield.
This book is a follow up to the story of the famous piano playing Bear, The Bear and The Piano, which was the winner of the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize in 2016. It revisits Bear many years after the end of the earlier book, when he is no longer a new and novel artist and the audiences are no longer flocking to hear him play. Bear’s audiences get smaller and smaller and eventually he decides to stop playing altogether and return to the forest. Bear feels lost without his musical life, until he has a child, and Little Bear comes along. Being with Little Bear brings new meaning and new happiness to Bear’s life until one day they come across the piano in the forest. Little Bear asks her father about the piano and is excited to hear tales of his adventures brought to him through playing the piano, but sees Bear’s sadness about not playing music any more. So she sets about arranging an opportunity for Bear to play the piano once more. I won’t say any more than that about the story, you will have to read it yourself.
As mentioned above, this is the third book of a series of books about animal musicians. The first book, The Bear and The Piano told the story of how Bear found a piano in the forest, started to play it, and then found fame and fortune as a Bear Pianist. The second book, The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and The Fiddle, tells the story of how Hugo, a dog who is a loyal friend to his violinist owner takes up playing the fiddle himself when his owner gets older and stops playing himself. One day Bear, from the first book, approaches Hugo and invites him to join him on tour, and once again Hugo finds fame and fortune, and exciting adventures through playing his violin. While the themes from the first two books are fairly similar – hard work and practice leads to success, and life as a musician can bring very exciting, wonderful rewards and community in being able to play music together. Both of these books also explore ideas of loyalty, love and friendship as well without hitting you over the head with “the moral of the story”.
This book feels like the last one of the series, concluding the tale of the piano playing Bear. It is both absolutely lovely and quite sad. The book brought up some unexpected feelings for me, especially as someone who has very much changed her career ambitions a few times over the course of her life, and become much more at home based since having children. Bear, once a novel act – the first Bear pianist is likely to be quite the novelty act and I can see how audiences for the novel act would dwindle over time – decides to stop playing altogether once he stops performing. Now, I know that this is a story for children, but Bear’s reaction to stop performing, and that is it, no more music for me I could both understand and found very sad. Obviously, for me personally, the point of learning to play an instrument is not to become a famous performer, but to be able to enjoy music itself and enjoy playing your instrument for its own sake and for what you get out of playing your instrument. It was a shame to see that Bear did not want to play just for his own benefit. But then, I have never been a professional performer, I worked in roles that supported the performers so maybe have a different perspective on that.
As a parent, I completely identify with Bear getting a new lease of life when he gets to see the world anew through his daughter’s eyes, and how it gets harder to keep up with their lease of life and energy as they grow up! And I loved the efforts that Little Bear made for her father, and to help him fill his heart with music again, her recognition that this was something important to him. I loved the way the story ended, that it was wrapped up and yet left a few questions in my mind – does Bear continue to play? Does Little Bear get the bug to start playing herself? I was left with the hope that Bear, though he may not play with his band again, will continue to play the piano in the future. Maybe I have read too much into this?
David Litchfield, as well as being the author of this series of books, is also the illustrator, and they are beautifully illustrated. The illustrations telling as much of the story as the words.
This is a lovely story. A more poignant ending to the tale of the piano playing Bear than I would have expected, but it is very well done. The suggested reading age for the book on Amazon is 4-7, and while I would largely agree with this, I have read the earlier books in this series with my children from around the age of 3. You know your child and what they are interested in, or able to understand best, but I would have no hesitation recommending reading this book, and the rest of the series to children over 3 years old.
At the time of writing this review, The Bear, The Piano and Little Bear’s Concert was available on Amazon priced at £5.94 for a paperback copy, or £5.99 for a hardcover copy. Of course, the prices on Amazon are always subject to change depending on demand for the product. And of course, the book is available from other book retailers.
If you have enjoyed reading my blog post, thank you. I am always looking for ideas for the blog, so would love to hear from you with suggestions for topics you would like me to cover in the future. Also, if you would be interested in supporting me to keep this blog running, buying the books to review here, and supplies to make the DIY instruments, for example, I would be absolutely delighted if you would consider buying me a coffee using the following link: Buy Me A Coffee Thank you!!