A young bear wakes from a long nap to be greeted with a surprise: "It was red as a berry and round like the moon with a long silver string drifting brightly in the breeze." What Matthew Burgess's adorable ursine hero does with the unexpected companionship becomes the charming narrative of The Bear and the Moon, which combines outdoor adventures with a poignant message about the lasting gift of friendship.
Every time the bear tries to catch his new playmate, he wobbles and tumbles in frustrated exhaustion. When the bear learns to walk and dance side-by-side, the pair energetically enjoy each other's company. The bear leads his friend on "a tour of his whereabouts"--his honey tree, his downhill slide, even "the spot where I sit on the pot." Suddenly, the "wonderful... squishable, huggable" friend bursts, leaving behind only a "red tatter dangling on the silver string." The bear despairs--"Bad, bad bear"--until the full moon rises and soothes with gentle reassurances.
In spare, inviting verse, professor/poet Burgess highlights the absorbing power of young friendship, emphasizing that time together is no measure for the depth of the bond. The bear's attachment here is undeniable; he readily recognizes this gift of a friend, making his loss-inspired self-recriminations potently affecting. The forgiveness nudged from above ushers peace and the permission to delight again in absorbing memories. Burgess finds an ideal collaborator in Brazilian artist Cátia Chien, who lives in New York City and whose mixed-media illustrations imbue every vibrantly swathed, expressive page with resonating emotive range. Using changing perspectives and evocative palettes, Chien clearly depicts the bear's every mood, beginning with discovery and delight and ending with mourning and (self) acceptance. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon