Review: The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

A musical, magical ode to imagination.

Publication date: 3rd September 2015
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s

The Bear and the Piano is a wonderful picture book about perseverance, and discovering the important things in life. From the striking front cover – making it impossible not to pick it up – to the very last page, every aspect of it is carefully thought through and successfully executed. It’s no wonder it was the winner of Waterstones Children’s Book Prize: Best Illustrated Book 2016. 

Litchfield’s story is a often-told one: the main character is a prodigy in something, they leave everything they know behind to pursue their dreams but realise that there’s no place like home. However, it is retold in such an imaginative way, with such a charming, curious protagonist, that it transcends its origins. It’s a story about unconditional love, just as much as it is a story about learning to create and succeed – whilst remaining a story about a bear who learns to play piano and makes it to ‘the big city’.

The illustrations are fantastic. They’ve got a surreal, atmospheric quality; the colours and shapes a perfect combination for the fantasia of the story. The sharp lines give the magical nature of the text a solidity to work against. They add so much to the book, making the biggest impact at the end, when Bear is welcomed back into the forest.

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever needed to leave their family behind in order to pursue their desires. And for anyone who loves interesting illustration techniques and stories about the importance of creativity, The Bear and the Piano is an unmissable book.

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