This totally glorious picture book brings the story of bear and the piano full circle. After being a tremendous success pianist for several years, Hector Bear finds that he is gradually playing to smaller audiences and he is no longer as popular as at the beginning. Eventually he decides to retire and returns to the forest, where he settles down and eventually is blessed by the birth of Little Bear. She is a lively and inquisitive cub and one day she comes across something she has never seen before; it is Hector’s piano and he ends up telling her the story of his early life. Little Bear sees how unhappy he is and decides to write to Hugo (Bear’s old companion) and invite him to the forest. What happens next will have you almost in tears, with a renewed faith in the essential goodness of people, but also about the ability of music to profoundly change people’s lives.
The illustrations for this story are totally stunning and provide so much for us to take in. I particularly love the scene when Hector decides to give up his music. The way he leaves the stage is full of sorrow and pain and when we look into the auditorium and see the audience it is very emotional; some people are talking to each other and one person is sound asleep. As always David Litchfield has produced the most amazing settings for the story and the use of colour brings everything vividly to life. There are the very obvious contrasts between the brilliant images full of colour and light which reflect the joy of playing music and the darkness of some of the pages, where Hector is feeling depressed and uncertain about his music. This is a book that will keep the young reader totally fascinated and absorbed by the depth and complexity of the images that they are exploring.
We were first introduced to Hector in the first of this trilogy,when he discovered his love of the piano and we have followed him through the ups and downs of being a musician. I can’t believe that this was 5 years ago and that it was David Litchfield’s first picture book. It went on to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for best illustrated book and the rest, as they say, is history; he has produced several wonderful titles apart from those about the Bear, but this set are still my favourites. Whilst the text is quite limited, it makes all the words count and the images are truly magical.
Thank you to Frances Lincoln Books and Netgalley for giving me access to this title; it has been a total delight.