cover image The Bear and the Wildcat

The Bear and the Wildcat

Kazumi Yumoto, trans. from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano, illus. by Komako Sakai. Gecko, $19.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-877467-70-7

When Bear’s friend, a little bird, dies suddenly, Bear is bereft. He makes a berry-stained, flower-lined box and tucks the bird inside, where “his tiny black beak gleamed like onyx.” Bear’s carrying the box with him soon disturbs the other animals: “It may be hard,” they say, “but you’ll have to forget.” Bear subsequently grieves alone behind a locked door until, one sunny day, he encounters a wildcat with a strange box of his own, who acknowledges Bear’s loss. “This little bird must have been a very special friend of yours.” Wildcat plays the violin from his box for Bear and the departed bird; as Bear listens, he remembers all he loved about his friend, and prepares himself to say goodbye. Elegant, understated spreads over scumbled black backdrops by Sakai divide the story, the first half dark with Bear’s misery, the second half dawning with light. Hirano’s fine translation renders Bear’s transition in simple, natural-sounding English, and Yumoto’s sensitive characterization makes the story a touchstone for talking about loss. Ages 5–9. (Feb.)