cover image Bear Island

Bear Island

Matthew Cordell. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-250-31716-2

In a house by a lake, Louise and her parents mourn the loss of Charlie, their dog. There’s an island on the lake, and Louise rows out there in angry turmoil, painted in sepia scenes by Caldecott Medalist Cordell (Wolf in the Snow). She waits for something to happen, but there’s only silence. “I’m leaving!” she shouts, thwacking a stick against a tree. Butterflies emerge, and deer, and then there’s a noise—“a snapping of trees noise... a chuffing of breath noise”—and a bear appears. The bear, Louise sees in his defeated posture and sad expression, has also suffered a loss. Louise returns to the island throughout the summer and fall; Cordell portrays her as a scribbly, friendly pink-skinned figure and the bear as a massive, magnificent one. Vignettes show the two as they travel through their grief together: “Some days, only Louise was better. Some days, only Bear was better.” But both heal, slowly, a change traced across the seasons via an imperceptible transformation to full color. In a story that respects grief’s slow pace, Cordell’s writing and artwork together carry grace, economy, and heart. Ages 2–5. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. [em](Jan.) [/em]