Little Red Bear, by Penny Matthews and Anna Pignataro

When Hanna and her busy mother go for a quick walk, Hanna sees a litte red bear sitting alone on a wall outside an office building. He seems to be lost. Back at home, Hanna can’t stop worrying about the bear, especially when it gets windy and, the next day, wet.

Hanna’s mother is too busy to go and check on the bear, but Hanna knows what it’s like to be afraid, so she sneaks out and goes looking for him. When she finds him, wet and bedraggled, she takes him home to her worried mother.

Little Red Bear is a story about a girl and a toy bear, but it is also about reassurance and connectedness. Hanna forms a connection with the bear, relating to its being alone and uncared for. When she runs away to rescue the bear, she also learns that her busy mother does care for her. The warmth that she feels when she holds the bear in front of the fire comes from more than the feeling of having a new toy – it is, more importantly, from the reassurance of knowing she is loved.

The rich water colour illustrations by Anna Pignataro enrich this calm, heart-warming story. Hanna and the bear add colour to the muted beiges and olives of the stormy landscape, with a visual connection between the two forged by the almost-red brown of Hanna’s hair just a little darker the red of the bear. Hanna’s house and mother are similarly drab in tonings, with Hanna being the only colour in the house, until the arrival of the bear.

This is such a gentle story that youngsters are unlikely to conciously realise the lesson of reassurance that it holds, but parent readers will be sure to take note of the message that is there for adults.

Little Red Bear, by Penny Matthews and Anna Pignataro
Scholastic, First Published 2003, this edition 2005