The Bear and the Duck By May Angeli

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One late winter day, a strange noise startles Bear out of his slumber. Grumpily searching for the source, he finds Duck, trapped in the thicket—but not for long. Bear frees Duck with a few scoops of his big paws, and their friendship begins. The more time the two spend swimming, exploring, and telling stories, the less Bear wants to go back to his lonely old life.  As spring turns to summer, and summer turns to fall, what else will change? 

Stunning woodcut engravings illustrate this gentle story about kindness, the four seasons, and the joy of an unexpected friend. The Bear and the Duck

This is a delightfully sweet read. Simple but full of warmth and friendship.

An awakening bear stumbles across a sassy duck stuck and hurt; Bear then helps free duck from the mess he's in. That begins a sweet friendship where they go about their days together until duck feels better and heeds the call of the migration and joins the other ducks.

Bear goes to sleep again but only after reconciling himself to the loss of his friendship.

The ending of the book is sweet and shows the continuity of friendship.

Well written in text that flows with a gentle, warm feel. A good read aloud book for little ones.

I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. 32 Plot very predictable and the language a little forced at times, but deserves 4 stars for the gorgeous and unique art and a line of hilariously random violence partway through. 32 The illustrations are really beautiful, but there wasn't much of a point otherwise. The text was both boring and too weird. 32 The wood engravings are so charming and are unusual for picturebook illustration. This is part of why I like the book so much. All the colors are marvelous too. Engravings contribute a wonderful array of texture that Angeli has perfected. From the bear's hibernation cave to their first meeting to the grassy knoll or wet pond, the story progresses along amiably. The two-page spread of the duck hearing and seeing the other birds flying off is my favorite. The blue sky is full of the lively flapping birds all in a row. Thank you, Bear! I'll see you soon. Don't worry--I'll be back. But, of course, bear's days are lonely, and the cycle of a long winter's sleep begins again. Will Bear see duck again? 32 A lot of modern children’s books are brightly, flashy, rhyming, and intended to be read over and over and over again to the point of annoyance. Looking back to older children’s books, there seems to have been a deeper quality about the ones that endured. More of a narrative. More artistic illustrations. Deeper themes. The Bear and the Duck follows in his classic tradition, beautifully written and illustrated by May Angeli.

It’s a difficult book to review, because it’s so stylistically different than most of what we’re used to. Either you’ll like it or you won’t. It isn’t my children’s favorite at the moment—they’re three and one—but this is the kind of children’s book meant for an early reader. Ages 6 or 7, but maybe not quite ready for chapter books. It’s a book to learn to read, not just for listening.

Duck is ready to begin his migration, but when he crashes he finds himself too injured to carry on. He’s taken in by Bear, who is just awakening from his hibernation, and an unlikely friendship develops. Bear and Duck spend the summer together, sharing stories, enjoying each other’s company, and becoming good friends. But soon, Duck has healed enough to leave. He takes off into the sky, promising to come back.

Bear is sad. And this is where the book gets hauntingly real. I may never see Duck again. But I guess that’s life, as they say when sad things happen. It may seem inappropriate for a children’s book, but it’s absolutely not. Children are well aware that life can be sad, that sad things happen, and that friends come and go. These are all emotions that deserve to be validated. Bear doesn’t say it’s okay or only look forward to seeing Duck again. He’s sad about the loss of his friend and he lingers on it. It’s especially poignant for schoolchildren whose friendships may get broken up every summer as school lets out.

The book ends with Duck’s return and the restoration of a friendship. Like all good friendships, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away, you can go right back to where you left off. The Bear and the Duck is a heartwarming classic that hits a bit deeper than most children’s books and leaves us a bit uncomfortable. But that is as it should be. May Angeli’s English-language debut is sure to be a classic. 32


I feel like I have read many versions of this story, so it was predictable. The ending also felt unsatisfying. 32 Duck crash-lands in a thicket and is rescued by Bear, just up from hibernation. Bear feeds Duck and the two become friends. The story is simple and told with subtle humor (translated from French). Handsome woodcuts in limited color are reminiscent of 1950s and 60s picture books. It's a lovely story about the seasons and enduring friendship.

You can see May Angeli at work here:

Thank you to Eerdmans for the review copy.

For a story time about unlikely friendships, hibernation, and the seasons, pair 'The Bear and the Duck' with 'Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear' by Monica Carnesi. 32 While I find the book charming in both writing and illustration, my son whom the book was checked out for was not so interested. I struggled to keep him interested in the visuals and we ended up rushing this one, and not picking it up again.

Will try again when he's a bit older perhaps. 32 Sweet, though unoriginal, and lovely engravings, but the center justified text is tough to read. 32 Bear and Duck are a bit of an odd couple when first they meet. Duck needs help and Bear graciously offers him hospitality with no strings attached. By the end, both come to appreciate and depend on one another. Gorgeous, wood print illustrations should not be missed! 32