STARRED REVIEW
October 13, 2020

A Story for Small Bear

By Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Richard Jones
Review by

A Story for Small Bear cradles a tale of playful curiosity and exploration in the warm, sheltering arms of home. As winter draws closer, Small Bear and Mama have things to do before they can begin hibernating. They must make sure they have a warm winter den, clean fur and full bellies.

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All readers have books that feel like their “safe spaces.” Some of us retreat into fantasy or stories from decades past. Some seek laughter. Others find refuge in nonfiction or in intimate, confessional memoirs. Even the littlest readers among us need books to call home. A Story for Small Bear cradles a tale of playful curiosity and exploration in the warm, sheltering arms of home.

As winter draws closer, Small Bear and Mama have things to do before they can begin hibernating. They must make sure they have a warm winter den, clean fur and full bellies. It’s hard for Small Bear to say goodbye to all the forest things she loves, but if she works quickly, she will have time for the thing she loves most: bedtime stories from Mama.

Author Alice B. McGinty’s child-friendly narration embraces descriptive language, personifying the winter’s chill and making use of repetition and alliteration that will bring the littlest readers into her story as well as entertain the big ones. McGinty’s calm, even tone makes this the perfect last-story-before-sleep book.

Illustrator Richard Jones paints a world that feels vibrant and alive, even as it’s preparing for a long winter nap. His images have a lushness to them and a wonderful depth of field, as autumn leaves and spruce trees overlap with fallen pinecones and wildflowers in the book’s spreads. Rabbits peek out here and there, birds dot the branches and the last of the fall grass fills the foreground. The images have a near-tangible texture; the bears’ fur appears soft and warm, the cool lake water looks crisp, and you can practically hear the rustle and crunch of dry leaves. His autumnal color palette of warm russets, gleaming golds and pinecone greens is the story’s ideal complement. When winter finally arrives, it is equally tranquil and lovely; there’s no shocking bright-white backdrop to pull us out of this placid, reassuring world. Small Bear and Mama’s gentle, curious and loving facial expressions round out each cozy page. This is a book with no sharp edges.

The perfect book for fall, A Story for Small Bear has a simple message: Winter may be coming, but everything will be all right. Our house is cozy, you are safe, and we have plenty of stories to keep us company as we ride out the cold together.

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A Story for Small Bear

A Story for Small Bear

By Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Richard Jones
Schwartz & Wade
ISBN 9781984852274

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