The Bear and the Wildcat
Kazumi Yumoto and Komako Sakai
‘One morning, Bear was crying. His best friend, a little bird, was dead.’ So begins this deeply moving, poignant story of friendship, loss, grief and finally, hope.
Bear fashions a small wooden box and gently places the bird inside. He carries the box everywhere showing it to other animals he meets. They admire its beauty but failing to understand why Bear takes the box around, tell him to forget his friend.
Bear returns home and shuts himself away for several days but one morning sunshine streaming through the window wakes him. This prompts him to venture outside and as he walks along the riverbank, he comes upon a wildcat dozing at the waterside; beside him are a battered rucksack and a strangely-shaped box.
The latter interests Bear who wants to know what’s inside. The wildcat agrees to show him on condition Bear opens his box too.
The wildcat listens as Bear tells his story, realising that he must miss the friend he’d loved deeply. It’s the first time anybody else has acknowledged this to Bear. In return wildcat opens his box, takes out his violin and offers to play a song for Bear’s friend. As he does so, Bear remembers some of the times he and Bird had spent happily together
and in so doing Bear’s sadness begins to lift and he starts to heal. He decides it’s time to bury his friend and with the wildcat’s help they create a final resting place for the little bird.
The wildcat invites Bear to accompany him on his travels, he gives him a well-used tambourine and together the two animals move on, travelling the world and making music.
Kazumi Yumoto’s text is lyrically and lovingly written; and is accompanied by Komako Sakai’s soft edged, smudgy black and white images, which become infused with touches of pink as Bear begins to recall the happy memories and accept his friend’s death.
A beautiful book to offer comfort to those experiencing loss, and an opportunity to talk about death and grief with younger children.