With its opening sentences this beautiful, moving picture book plunges straight in: ‘One morning, Bear was crying. His best friend, a little bird, was dead.’ With great care, Bear makes a small wooden box into which he gently places his friend. This box goes everywhere with Bear and he shows it to all the animals he meets as he walks in the forest. They love the box but cannot see why Bear carries a dead bird around with him. He’ll never come back to life, they insist, you must forget all about him.
Back home Bear locks himself away, sitting alone in the darkness, till one day the morning sun streaming through the window wakes him and he decides to take a walk outside. As he walks beside the river, he discovers a wildcat asleep on the bank; next to him are a rucksack and an unusual shaped box. This interests Bear who wants to see what’s within. Wildcat agrees to open it so long as Bear reveals the contents of his box too. Cautiously Bear does so and the wildcat listens to his story, understanding how special bird was and that he must miss his friend a great deal; it’s the very first time another animal has acknowledged this. Wildcat takes out his violin and plays some music. As he does so Bear recalls some of the times he and Bird had spent together. As a result Bear starts to come to terms with his loss and the healing begins. Knowing that those happy memories will always remain, Bear and his new friend bury the little bird and the wildcat suggests Bear accompanies him, travelling the country and making music together, wildcat on the violin, Bear on a tambourine from wildcat’s battered bag.
Lovingly and lyrically written and equally lovingly illustrated in smudgy, soft-edged black and white, with touches of pink as Bear begins to accept the bird’s death, this perfectly pitched, poignant and ultimately hopeful, book is one to offer comfort to those experiencing loss, and an opportunity to talk about death and grieving with young children.