cover image The Bear and the Moon

The Bear and the Moon

Matthew Burgess, illus. by Catia Chien. Chronicle, $18.99 (52p) ISBN 978-1-4521-7191-3

Burgess (Drawing on Walls: A Life of Keith Haring) and Chien (The Town of Turtle) add savor to a simple story with visceral writing and elemental artwork. A red balloon floats toward a young black bear: “It was red as a berry and round like the moon with a long silver string drifting brightly in the breeze.” The bear’s roly-poly body provides a cozy counterpoint to the balloon’s smooth surface. The two engage in a pas de deux—“When he walked, it walked. When he danced, it danced”—until a too-eager bear hug ends the balloon’s short life. The animal is stricken (“Bad bear, he thought. Bad, bad bear”) until comfort arrives from another sky-given orb, which “reached down to him and gently stroked his fur.” Chien creates each spread with a sense of freshness, giving the expressive bear’s world an ancient feel with long horizons and sheets of color. Burgess writes with nimble emotionality; sprightly phrases lead up to the balloon’s demise (“What a wonderful thing! What a squishable, huggable thing!”), and genuine mourning occurs after. Together, the creators deliver an essential message of self-acceptance: “Good bear. Kind bear. Don’t worry, bear.” Ages 3–5. [em]Author’s agent: Erica Rand Silverman, Stimola Literary Studio. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.) [/em]