Bear is a heck of a dancer, but because of his enormous size, the other woodland creatures think he’s mean and scary. Fortunately for Bear, his friend Coco, a tiny girl with brown skin whose curly hair peeks out from beneath her bright red hat, understands that this is just a bunch of “noodle strudel.” She knows how gentle, brave and kind Bear is—and she has an idea about how to show the rest of the forest, too. Together, the two embark on a journey through the wintry woods to follow words of wisdom from Coco’s grandmother, which she stitched into an embroidery hoop: “When life gets dark as winter’s night, share some kindness. Bring some light.”
To show kindness, Bear bakes cookies; to bring light, Coco makes lanterns. They traverse the forest and offer these gifts to Badger, Rabbit, Hedgehog and Skunk, but each time, the offering from the unwelcome bear(er) is shunned. It isn’t until the other animals witness Bear commit an act of unsolicited assistance that everyone realizes true kindness isn’t rooted in giving and receiving things. It’s about spreading love without expecting to receive anything in return.
These themes of kindness and welcoming those who are different aren’t particularly original, nor is the narrative element of sentient woodland creatures, but debut author-illustrator Apryl Stott’s talented execution offers a powerful reminder of why these motifs continue to endure in children’s literature. The friendship between Coco and Bear is downright delightful, and two brief moments in which little Coco offers comfort and reassurance to mighty Bear are especially moving.
Stott’s illustrations are warm and self-assured, and her visual storytelling feels like the work of a veteran. Coco’s grandmother’s embroidery hoop is echoed throughout the story via scenes set within circular frames. Stott depicts grumpy Badger in a frame of nettles, and when Coco leaps off the path into a waist-deep snowbank, the frame around her drips with icicles. Young readers will delight at all the imaginative details Stott packs into her images. In particular, a wordless double spread that reveals the interior of Bear’s den as he bakes cookies is one to linger over.
It’s impossible to resist the bighearted appeal of Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light, a satisfying and accomplished debut picture book.