Applause, Applause!— The Bear and the Piano

bear cover
This book just looks magical.

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield looks and reads like a classic fairy tale and I find that really refreshing and appealing. I want to dive into David Litchfield’s gorgeous, light emitting paintings. This beautiful book reminds me of many of the classic picture books of yore ( way back in the day when I was little).

A bear cub stumbles upon a piano in the forest. I love when a picture book does this! To me, it really appeals to that inner child in me when the author tells me something unbelievable and doesn’t explain why. After all, the story is not, ‘how the piano got into the woods’.

The bear practices and practices until  the music he plays sounds beautiful. The other bears love hearing him play and he becomes famous among his friends in the woods.

“But he longed to explore the world beyond the woods, to hear more wonderful music, and to play bigger and better than before.”

bear and piano2

And so the bear goes off to the city and becomes very, very famous. But, again, this is not the story. The story is that despite his public fame and fortune, the bear misses something. He misses his friends. He returns to the forest worried that they will be mad at him for leaving them.

bear and piano

Instead, the bears have kept his piano safe for his return. They have hung all his accolades, playbills and articles from the branches of the trees like a magical shrine.

This is the story. A classic story of friendship, and love, and pride in your friends’ accomplishments. And for the bear, knowing this is what really fills his heart with joy. He realizes that his friends are the very best audience of all.

The gorgeous illustrations emit a real radiance and light. David Litchfield’s slightly subdued palette reminds me of vintage Golden Books. This is the American printing of the book and I do miss the UK cover. There’s something about that big hulking bear in a tux at the piano that is so intriguingly discrepant.


(original UK cover)

As adults who love picture books, I think that sometimes we get caught up in the big “twist”, the new design, the ‘beginning middle and end’, the character resolving conflict, the never before seen medium. And we lose track that when it’s all said and done, these are books for kids. And no one has a better imagination and willingness to believe in the unbelievable than they do.

So put a piano in the forest.

Have a bear teach himself to play it and become brilliantly famous…

This is what makes a beloved picture book.

~ Just a little note— I’ll be away from my computer when this posts and will look forward to reading your comments and responding as soon as I can!

Thank you!



Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. I love these illustrations too, Jennifer. I can’t wait to read the book!

  2. This looks gorgeous and heartwarming, Jennifer. And I, too, love the sorts of books that put a piano in the forest. Well said. 🙂

  3. Beautiful! I’m going to have to get this one. The problem with this blog is that my must-have list grows and grows and grows. 🙂

  4. Very touching story. Nothing better than being remembered by friends.


  5. Such a great reminder to bring the magical into our stories. Thanks for sharing this one!

  6. I follow David Litchfield on Twitter/Instagram and really enjoy seeing his posts about the book love this title has received in the UK. Marvelous story and illustrations. Really touches those core emotions that classic, yet unformulaic, picture books can evoke.

  7. I agree this book is magical with a powerful message: there’s no place like home! This is sure to become a classic. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year! The illustrations are breathtaking.

  9. Very intriguing. Can’t wait to read it!

  10. Patricia Nozell

    I just read this gem, too. I loved the magic of a piano appearing in the forest (how true – kids don’t care how it appeared there); I also loved the bear’s persistence & practice, combined with the realization that the fanciest venues in the world can’t compare with an audience of friends.

  11. Lindsay Hanson Metcalf

    “Put a bear in the forest.” Wonderful advice.

  12. Definitely looks like a winner. I’m going to the library today, this book is now on my list. Thanks!

  13. I love this and can’t wait to read it!!

  14. It’s a very sweet book. Thanks for the post, Jennifer!

  15. I love the concept of Bear finding a piano in the forest! The piano is so big–so threatening–and Bear is so little. Lots of symbolism there. When Bear becomes an expert pianist, he’s the same size as the piano.

  16. Thanks for highlighting this PB. I fell in love with it too. I love that there is no need to explain how a piano got into the forest. Children suspend disbelief so much easier. Excellent post.

  17. Oh, Jennifer! Thanks for this beautiful post and for writing about allowing that leap of faith–the piano in the forest. It’s magic. It’s intriguing. After all, not everything can be explained. This book captures my heart right away.

  18. Loved your last three gems of this post:
    So put a piano in the forest.

    Have a bear teach himself to play it and become brilliantly famous…

    This is what makes a beloved picture book.

    Now I NEED to read this book. Thank you!

  19. This sounds and looks perfectly charming. Thanks for telling me about it. I will definitely check it out.

  20. I picked this one up because of the cover and the plain title. I’m definitely liking the plain titles these days—just know the story will be anything but plain. Loved it!

  21. Rita D. Russell

    What a lovely review of an absolutely LOVELY book! I enjoyed it every bit as much as you did, Jennifer.

  22. I play piano. I want to read this book! Thanks for sharing.

  23. This book looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Thanks for writing about this book, Jennifer. I love this story–the simplicity and the magic, as well as the heart. And, it’s beautiful too. So wonderful!

  25. This was a really fabulous post, Jennifer, and this indeed looks breathtaking and sweet — I can’t wait to pick it up!

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