Lizs Book Snuggery

Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

Berlioz the Bear

By Jan Brett


Is there anyone in the world of picture books, new or classic, that is not a fan of Jan Brett? Maybe. Maybe they live in Outer Mongolia, and have not been exposed to her imaginative storytelling abilities, coupled with an art so winning and wonderful that it warms you. And, her trademark page borders that grace many of her picture books are stories to pore over, at length, in themselves.

So, here is an early 1992 classic Brett beauty with borders, plus a bear named Berlioz! And if you’ve missed this one, please do give it a read.

Berlioz, in Tyrollean finery, is tuning up his double bass cello, to play in the all bear orchestra at the village square musical gala.

This is a bear that takes his instrument very seriously and the sound it produces. Yet emanating from his instrument, comes a strange humming sound that sounds akin to Zum, zum, buzz, Zum, zum, buzz. Is it Berlioz’s buzzing or…..?

No time to ponder further, as he climbs aboard a flower-bowered folk art decorated cart that would look just perfect parked at any Alpine farm.

He, along with other fitted out and  festooned male and female bear musicians lumber atop the wagon, with Berlioz as driver, to venture into town for the gala in the town square.

What could go wrong?

Ruts in the road happen, plus there is a mule sit in, and travel halts.

Suddenly, a veritable group of Bremen Town Musicians show up in rapid succession, as in a rooster, cat, schnauzer, billy goat, and even a gorgeous sunflower blanketed plow horse, followed by a belled ox.

And all try pulling, with one accord, to beat the band. Or, maybe help the band is a more fitting phrase.

Movement commences in a trice, not from the conglomeration of compassionate carters, but from the impetus provided by that something in Berlioz’s bass…a bee landing on the hind quarters of the mule. Holy moly! There is a sudden movement, and it’s not musical.

Do they arrive in time? Will the band play on? And, what will they strike up? Why, the hastily inspired and noteworthy classic tune, “Flight of the Bumblebee,” of course! Brett’s delightfully demonstrates that musical inspiration can come at any time, from any place, and provide music for the ear, even if it starts with a faint:


Zum, zum, zum

Zum, zum, zum


“School Library Journal” so rightly pointed out due praise at Berlioz’s publication with this starred review that concurred: “A wonderful blending of elements into a cohesive, thoroughly entertaining work that subtly introduces young readers to the world of music.”

Please come meet a bear named Berlioz with your young reader, and have them literally humming along to the tune Berlioz, and his orchestra play, courtesy of Mr. Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov whose classically bumble bee inspired tune will sound quite familiar.

Have a listen.








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