cover image Bear Loved Puccini

Bear Loved Puccini

Arnold Sundgaard. Philomel Books, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22135-4

From the ``dark deep forests of northern Minnesota'' to the bright lights of Milan, Italy, this tongue-in-cheek story of a young bear's rise to operatic stardom hits scarcely a wrong note. After hearing Madama Butterfly on the radio one day, Robert Remsen ``Barefoot'' Rainfield decides to ``become an opera singer and dedicate his voice to the music of Puccini.'' The determined bruin hops a bus to St. Paul, and after a stunning debut at a local diner (he's paid in pancakes), La Scala's maestro whisks him off to Italy to sing at the world's most famous opera house. Sundgaard has a puckish sense of humor (instead of autographs, for example, Barefoot hands out pawprints on cafe menus, and La Scala's offer--``We'll double the pancakes, triple the maple syrup''--is served up in campy Hollywood agent style), and the story errs only in its rather heavy moralizing--follow your dreams, no matter how impossible they might seem. Rendered in becoming tones of browns and blues, Catalano's muted pastel illustrations echo the understated wit of this upbeat tale. Ages 4-8. (June)