Little Bear is a treasure finder. He doesn’t go looking for it: treasure finds him, and he shares the news about it with everyone he meets. What could be better than a shiny button, a handy clothespin or a piece of fluff? A handful of blueberries on a bush becomes a brimming multitude, and even dust takes on a glow of rosy possibility.
Sadly, though, the other animals have better things to do than pay attention to a load of junk. Donkey is too busy combing his tail, and as for the carpet-slippered goose, she doesn’t stop dusting long enough to listen, let alone look. Eventually Little Bear stops sharing. He becomes quiet, and his nose droops.
‘Watch out,’ says a voice, ‘or your nose will hit a root…’ A little bird is sitting on Bear’s head, and he’s interested in treasures. In fact, he really seems to understand.
‘Oooh!’ he cries. ‘A magic stick….!’ And the two of them set off to discover things that are bigger and better than ever before: a log for trumpeting, a tree-bark boat, a mysterious fog…
Bear’s world changes when he finds someone with whom to share his enthusiasms and experiences. Together, Bear and Bird create something that neither could have discovered independently, and it’s worth the wait. There’s a message here about friendship, but it’s delivered gently and in a way that enables us to observe and learn. The possibility of a special friend out there for everyone feels very real.
Stella Dreis’s characters are charmingly expressive, but there’s an emotional edge to their world that grounds us – softly rounded pastel forms encourage and protect, but shadows gather in murky corners and amongst the glittering fish there swims a shark. Luckily for Bear and Bird, enthusiasm and imaginative joie-de-vivre are enough to keep them from harm, and together they dance through shadows discovering delights at every turn.
A lesser book might have left us with a standard observation about the value of a friend, but in allowing Bear’s and Bird’s experience of the night sky to play out – ‘true bear-bird treasure!’ – Dreis delivers a heartwarmingly memorable finale with real punch.
Szeinmann’s translation of Dreis’s affectionate and gently poetic text is a pleasure to read, and seems to capture something important about its heart and soul. Little Bear’s Treasures will inspire seeking and finding of many kinds, and will be much loved.