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An unusual friendship

Review of 'The Bear and the Duck' by May Angeli.

In this charming children’s picture book about an unusual friendship, Duck gets off to a bad beginning when, at the end of winter, he takes a running start so he can fly away, but his wings and legs get snarled and he crashes into a mishmash of branches. Nearby, as Bear enjoys the comfort of his hibernation, he is awoken by the noise of Duck’s descent. When Bear leaves his cave, he discovers cranky and frightened Duck, who bluffs courage and calls out, “Come any closer and I’ll break your head!”

Bear immediately sees through Duck’s show of bravado and assures the small creature that he means no harm. After all, Bear says, he is old and doesn’t have many teeth left so he wouldn’t even be able to harm Duck.

Gently and lovingly, Bear nurses Duck back to health, offering his messy den for a shelter and bringing Duck food and water. Soon, Duck and Bear are friends, sharing stories, going for walks, and swimming together. One day, the inevitable happens – Duck feels well when autumn arrives and the cries of other ducks draw him into flight, away from Bear. But before he leaves, Duck promises Bear that he will be back.

Dejected, lonely, and resigned to the loss of his friend, Bear carries on with life, eating even though he isn’t hungry and finally hibernating when winter winds begin to blow. But when spring arrives, Bear receives a wondrous surprise and learns that not all goodbyes are forever.

Author and illustrator May Angeli’s simple, meaningful story, sprinkled with gentle humour, is complemented by her emotive, earth-toned artwork depicting the joy of friendship and the beauty of the seasons.

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