One day, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before in the forest. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument, and eventually, the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods. The bear goes with them on an incredible journey to New York, where his piano playing makes him a huge star. He has fame, fortune and all the music in the world, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind.
Teaching Ideas and Resources:
- “One day, a bear cub finds something strange in the forest.” Use this line from the book’s blurb as the starting point for your own story.
- Choose a few pages from the book and sort all of the words. Which ones are nouns / adjectives / verbs / adverbs etc? Can you think of synonyms for some of them?
- ‘PLONK’ is an example of onomatopoeia. Can you think of any others?
- Write a set of instructions to teach the bear how to play the piano.
- Retell the story from the bear’s point of view.
- Think of speech / thought bubbles to add to the illustrations of the bear.
- Make a list of arguments ‘for’ and ‘against’ the bear leaving the forest and going to the city (or when he is in the city thinking about going home again).
- Create a postcard from the bear (when he arrives in the city) to his friends back in the forest.
- Write a letter from the bear to his family at the point when he is recording albums and winning awards for his music.
- Make a persuasive poster to encourage people to see the amazing bear perform.
- Write a newspaper article about the bear’s first performance. Use the headlines shown in the illustrations as a starting point.
- Write a review of one of the bear’s albums.
- Write one of the magazine interviews that are mentioned in the story.
- Read the reviews of the author’s books in online book stores. Could you write your own review of this book?
- Watch this video review. Could you make something similar?
- Find out more about the author’s A Drawing a Day project. Could you try to create a drawing every day?
- Watch the video above and think of some questions that you would like to ask David Litchfield.
- Find out the ticket prices for theatres near where you live. Could you use this information to create some word problems?
- Could you compose a melody for the bear to play using music software?
- Use publishing software to create a poster that advertises the bear’s performances.
- Make an eBook in the form of the bear’s diary during his travels.
- Look at the poster on the author’s site. Could you create your own poster to promote the book?
- Watch this animation that was created to promote the book. Could you create your own animated trailer?
- Look at the illustration of the forest on the inside covers. How were they created? Could you create your own images of a forest using similar techniques? A brief description of how David Litchfield created the images can be found at the back of the book.
- When the bear is learning to play the piano, different illustrations show the same scene at different times of the year. Could you create a similar sequence of images?
- The author’s heroes and biggest influences are Albert Uderzo, Jon Klassen and Shaun Tan. Can you find out more about these people? Can you see any of their influences in this book?
- Write a report that explains how a piano works.
- Can you learn how to play a tune on the piano (or teach somebody else how to play)?
- Listen to different pieces of music that include a piano.
- When the bear plays, he dreams of strange and wonderful lands. Listen to a piece of piano music and draw / write / describe what it makes you dream of.
- The author was inspired by The White Stripes’ song, ‘Little Room’. What songs inspire you and why?
- Can you play the melody the Bear plays on the piano during his first concert in the big city, or can you teach a friend to play it? You can play this by ear or use the music, which is available for download below.
- The Bear and the Piano animation score includes some well-known piano pieces written over the last 400 years alongside Daniel Whibley’s original music. Watch the trailer below:
- When you watch the full animation, listen out for the following pieces of music and learn more about the composers who wrote them. You’ll be surprised how many you will recognise:
- PRELUDE IN C – This was written by J.S Bach, a German composer, in the 1700s. Bach had 20 Children. Imagine Christmas day at his house!
- SABRE DANCE – Khachaturian was a Russian composer in the 20th century. The Sabre Dance is his most famous piece and has been used in dozens of films, most recently Madagascar 3.
- RONDO ALLA TURCA – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s nickname was Wolfie. He could write music before he could write words. He lived in Vienna and loved to party.
- HUNGARIAN RHAPSODY No 2 – Franz Liszt travelled around Europe in the 19th century playing the piano and was always being mobbed by women who wanted a lock of his hair. He was the first ever “rock star’.
- PRELUDE IN C MINOR – Another piece by Bach. Well, his music is so good, after all. Bach loved coffee and once said, “Without my morning coffee, I’m just like a dried-up piece of roast goat.”
- ARABESQUE No 1 – The French composer Debussy never had much money during the first world war, when coal was so expensive. Debussy paid for it by writing compositions for the coal man.
- Which tunes or songs inspire you, and why?
- Listen to a piece of music and draw / write / describe how it makes you feel.
- Listen to Four Notes – Paul’s Tune, a piece improvised on the piano by dementia sufferer Paul Harvey, then orchestrated by Daniel Whibley (). Why is this story so moving, especially at the moment? Why do you think music is often remembered longer than words?
- The bear plays his piano on Broadway. Where is this? Can you find out more about it and write a travel guide?
- Can you find out about the history of the piano? Who invented it? How has it changed?
- In order to be a good piano player, the bear has to practise for days, weeks, months and years. When have you had to practise something for a long period of time?
- The bear sees something ‘that made his fur stand on end’. What does this mean? Have you ever felt a similar feeling?
- The bear’s friends hang special objects in the tree above the piano. Could you create something similar to record your own special achievements and memories?