Thursday, May 19, 2016

What's Your Piano?

Picture Book: The Bear and the Piano
Author & Illustrator: David Litchfield
Summary: This beautiful picture book involves a bear cub discovering a piano in a forest. 
He is intrigued by the sound the pressed keys make and experiments. Years later, he plays beautifully and a forest audience forms. The bear is happy and dreams of “strange and wonderful lands.”  
When a young girl and her father, hear the music and discover the artist, they lure him to the city to experience and play music . There he can perform for bigger crowds!
He is a great success, winning fame and awards. He realizes all he had hoped for in the city, but he misses the forest and his friends. 
He returns to the forest and anxiously looks for friends to tell of his success. When the piano is not where he expects, he worries that his friends have forgotten him or were hurt that he left. After encountering another bear who runs away, he follows while apologizing for leaving. Then he finds the piano. 
Behind it is an altar of sorts, with memorabilia of his musical success. The bear realizes that his earliest audience members were watching from afar and hoping for him to have success and fulfill his dreams.
Hanna’s Comments: I love this beautifully absurd book! There is so much here about the God-given desire we have to explore, create, and experience art & beauty. When you discuss this book with children or adults, don’t just focus on the bear character. Have your audience consider the perspectives of the forest audience, the daughter, and others who encourage the bear’s success in the city. Might you consider the piano similar to the burning bush? This book also relates to the homecoming of The Prodigal Son. He doesn't have to be presented as a negative character. All of us go away from our home in one way or another. Also, there's Abraham & Sarah's journey away from home and God's promise that they will be blessed to be a blessing. In a discussion with adults, end with the question, "What's your piano?"
Original Publisher & Date: Clarion, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Made in God's image (Genesis 1:27); Abraham & Sarah leave home - blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-5); Jacob leaves home and then returns unsure (Genesis 33:1-17); The Great Commandment  (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:31); Make a joyful noise (Psalm 100:1); Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30); the homecoming of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace (1 Peter 4:10)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of elementary students or confirmands who are learning about how human artistry is the result of God’s image in us so that we may create for joy and problem solving. You can also explore the importance of a supportive community to help us realize who we are supposed to be. Adults would enjoy this book in a small group or team who is considering ways to contribute to the Kingdom of God through artistry or support of the arts.