The Bear and the Moon by Matthew Burgess, Illustrated by Cátia Chien
The Bear and the Moon
words by Matthew Burgess
pictures by Cátia Chien
review copy from Chronicle Books
Cátia Chien's illustrations for The Bear and the Moon are so completely enchanting that I found myself diving into each illustration, forgetting to read Burgess's wonderful words. Then I went back and read the words and fell in love with this picture book all over again.
One day, bear sees a red dot in the sky. As it floats closer, the dot becomes a red balloon tied with a silver string. Curious, bear tries to catch the balloon, tumbling into a "furry puddle." When bear finally catches it, the play changes. Bear takes the balloon all over his world, from the tree he climbs to find honey to the "spot where I sit on the pot," a beautiful perch at the foot of a waterfall. Tumbling with the red thing (Burgess never names it balloon) bear joyfully exclaims, "What a nice thing! What a wonderful thing! What a squishable, huggable thing!"
Then the ballon pops. Bear stretches it, throws it back up in the air, but nothing brings it back. Bear's mood sinks with the sun - the sky had "sent him a gift, a friend, a small red moon, and now it was gone. Bad bear, he thought. Bad, bad bear." But, as the full moon rises, it reaches down and "gently stroked his fur." The moon speaks soothing, uplifting words to bear, and bear understands. As bear "dozed off to sleep," he remembers his "red round friend," holding the "memory on a silver string." And in his dreams, they dance again.
With simple, gentle, poetic text, Burgess conjures experiences and emotions that the littlest listeners will connect with, also showing how to cope with difficult feelings, especially loss and guilt. Chien's illustrations capture the swell of emotions, pairing them perfectly with the natural world. Purples, rich blues and golden yellows radiate off the pages where we see bear in his forest home. When bear is plying with the balloon, the black and red pair pop off the white pages. Chien's illustrations, from palette to style, capture the emotions that bear experiences, while Burgess's words engage and entertain giving readers a beautiful experience of joy, loss and forgiveness.