Compelled to Tell: Bear Has a Story to Tell by Phillip C. Stead
IT WAS ALMOST WINTER AND BEAR WAS GETTING SLEEPY.
Bear's fur is looking a bit frazzled and his eyelids are drooping, but still, he has a story he feels compelled to tell.
He slogs through the fallen leaves in search of a audience.
MOUSE, WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR A STORY?"
But Mouse's attention is consumed with laying in a serious supply of seeds for the winter. So Bear suspends his narrative and helps Mouse stock his larder, and Mouse pops into his burrow without a backward glance.
Bear continues crunching through the leaves, looking for a listener. Ah, there's Duck. He's not gathering seeds. Bear repeats his offer.
But Duck ducks Bear's offer.
I'M SORRY, BEAR, BUT IT'S ALMOST WINTER AND I AM GETTING READY TO FLY SOUTH.
Bear tries to help, raising one paw to check out the wind direction for Duck's liftoff, and waves a friendly bon voyage.
Bear finds Frog, who's wholly absorbed with his hunt for a snug mud hole to hibernate in for the winter. Although he's growing more and more sleepy, Bear thoughtfully digs a hole and tucks Frog in for the winter. But Frog dozes right off before Bear can begin a bedtime story.
Maybe Mole? But Bear is disappointed to find him already at the bottom of his deep burrow, dutifully dozing.
Bear's eyes are simply too heavy to pursue storytelling further, and the next thing he knows, it's spring and he's waking up in his den. Still, he has the feeling that there is something he's got to do. And when his four friends finally find him, he remembers that he had a story to tell. He takes his seat on a log and takes a deep breath. Only...
BEAR COULDN'T REMEMBER HIS STORY.
Happily for Bear, in Philip and Erin Stead's delightful second book, Bear Has a Story to Tell (Roaring Brook, 2012), his buddies are willing to come up with the necessary prompts. Philip Stead's understated narrative is appealingly illustrated by Erin Stead's softly engaging drawings, set modestly against a white background. Her woodland animals are no cutesy, cartoon critters, but are both realistic and emotionally evocative, with big Bear's helpfulness being returned eventually by his little friends who return his kindliness by helping him recall his story. There is gentle humor in Bear's persistence, especially in the vertical double-page spread where he is shown peering earnestly down Mole's long, winding tunnel to see if he is available for storytelling. Youngsters will find that they have the time to listen to Bear's tale when this one is ready for storytime.
Philip and Erin Stead first book together, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, received the 2011 Caldecott Medal, awarded by the American Library Association for the best-illustrated children's book of the year.