If Little House on the Prarie, Little Red Riding Hood and a folktale meet and created a book, Willa and the Bear by Philomena O’Neill would be the result. Have you ever read a book and thought, “Do I like this?” Bear and Wolf by Daniel Salmieri is that book.
These two books have nothing in common other than there are bears in them. And both have animals that take on human feelings, thoughts and actions. A bear would not return your lost doll, even if it is your very favorite doll in the world. A bear and wolf would not take a winter walk through the woods. The unbelievable nature of these stories at first blush makes me think that I do not like either of them.
I do like the illustrations, however, in both books. In Bear and Wolf, they are reminiscent of a walk in the woods. Quiet, but full of hidden treasures. Over all, it might need a second read to fully get everything out of it. And Willa and the Bear are rich, deep colors that give it that folktale feeling. They are realistic without being photographs. The stories are not going to be for everyone. Their spiritual feel and “everything works out” paths do lend themselves for people who enjoy happy endings. Now, I did not want Willa to lose her doll forever, and the sharing concept is nice, I think I would have liked a different ending. Perhaps if Willa had given the bear food or something a bear could appreciate and not the bear doll her grandmother made? And maybe if it was two bears or two wolves I might have appreciated the story more.