Review – A Bear and a Tree

It’s so nice to hold a new Stephen Michael King book in your hands. It always has that squeal-with-glee feel to it. The illustrations are so iconic, the language is always utterly heartfelt, and the characters that lovely combination of meltingly sweet, and strong.

Ren is outdoors, sitting under her favourite tree. She is a tad bereft because the tree has lost its leaves. Bear, who is collecting the leaves for his winter bed, finds Ren crying, offers her his brolly, then sits with her for as long as is needed.

Soon it begins to snow and Bear knows he shortly needs to hunker down for hibernation. But for now, he will spend a day with Ren. It will be their first ever winter’s day together – exploring, making patterns in the snow, creating bendy creations with tree branches and melting icicles into stunning creations.

Together, they play, dance, twirl and just . . . be. That is, until it’s time for Bear to go.

This is a story about friendship yes, but its seasonality brings with it a sense of both finality – and the promise of rebirth and new life. Ink and watercolour pages are awash with both the thick silence of snow, falling leaves and letting go – but similarly, they are awash with the tinkle of icicles and laughter, and the lovely dynamics between good friends.

Tender, sweet, simple and stunningly illustrated, this is yet another special book from an emotive and masterful talent.

A Bear and a Tree is published by Penguin.

Published by

Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney is an author of children's books and adult non-fiction. Recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne, and Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline. She's also an editor, publisher and founder of Kids Book Review.