‘One day in a forest, a young bear cub found something he’d never seen before.’


Thus begins the beautiful tale of an ordinary bear with an extraordinary talent, and a heart-wrenching decision to make.


Upon finding a piano in the forest, an inquisitive young bear cub is at first put off by the strange noises it makes. Persevering, he begins to discover a remarkable talent, and soon he is enthralling his friends and family in their woodland home. One day, his skills are discovered by a man and his daughter, who tell him of a great city full of people who would love to hear his playing if he would only go there with them. Will he stay with his friends and family in the forest, or will he step out of his comfort zone into a whole new world of stardom? If he leaves his home behind in pursuit of fame and fortune, will he ever be able to go back to the life he once had? And who is ‘the most important audience of all’?

David Litchfield has created an incredible debut picture book, which shocked no-one by picking up a Waterstones Prize in 2016. The text is perfect in its simplicity, and the opening sentence I quoted above is one of my favourites I’ve read in a picture book, but the illustrations are what really elevates this book to prize-winning levels. In a room of twenty people it is by no means inconceivable that every person would have a different favourite scene. Whether it is capturing the scenery with almost mystical beauty, or imposing emotions upon the bear without it coming across as corny or contrived, Litchfield has done an impressive job of conveying this simple story with profound depth.

Recommended age: EYFS/KS1 – Lower KS2 – there are themes within the book which could be explored in some depth in KS2, though the story at face value probably relates more to Key Stage 1.

Classroom Use:

This is the part of my reviews which may change in format, but I will here give just some of the themes/activities I think this lovely book lends itself to.


  • Family
  • Practice
  • Growth Mindset
  • Choices
  • Decisions
  • Empathy
  • Loneliness
  • Celebrity
  • Travel/journeys
  • Forest/Woodland
  • Habitats
  • Cities
  • Talents
  • Hobbies
  • Gifts
  • Music
  • Instruments
  • Fame and Fortune
  • Explorers
  • Special places

Teaching ideas:

  • Answer some of the questions:
    • How did the piano get there?
    • Why were the girl and her father exploring in the forest?
    • What happens to the people after they meet the bear?
    • What happens after the last page?
    • (How) would the story have been different with a different animal?
  • Role-play/Hot-seating the bear’s dilemma.
  • Write thought bubbles or speech bubbles for various parts of the story
  • Persuasive Writing (Should the bear go to the city or stay in the forest?)
  • Postcard writing
  • Letter writing
  • Diary of the bear’s adventure
  • Newspapers/Advertisements/Posters (lots of these in the illustrations)
  • Write own story involving an unusual animal-object link
  • Using illustrations for sequencing/story-telling
  • Research bears and write fact-files for your school library/book corner
  • Maths: ticket prices for theatre or travel
  • Maths: distances from home
  • Art: Create forest/cityscapes
  • Art: Design an outfit for the bear to wear when performing
  • Geography: differences between urban/rural places
  • PSHE: Plenty of links to the themes above!
  • Science: suitability to habitats
  • History: Research the history of pianos or of the theatre

If you have read and enjoyed the book and are screaming at the screen that I’ve missed something, do tell me! These posts are intended to be a snapshot, but I would love to hear how you have used the books to promote children’s love of reading, and their learning across all areas of the curriculum!


3 thoughts on “Review: The Bear and the Piano

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