A stately, elegantly cadenced tale about a king who reluctantly obeys his queen's last request: to go with young Michael, taking her ring to the bear in the ""mickle"" (great) woods. Though the king's responses are gruff, the old bear tells them stories--of a wealthy man who has a box of answers, but not the right questions; of a frail bird who sings despite life's perils; of a weaver who learns that everything must be included if his pattern is to be strong. Hearing, debating, pondering, the king learns to bear his grief and take comfort in the boy his wife had loved. An ambitious story, driven more by idea than by plot, but told with a contagious sense of wonder. As he does for Treece's poem (below), Moser creates a dramatic forest with clark colors on black (here touched with snow or gleams of light), interspersed with character studies and vignettes of the bear's stories. A worthy, serious effort in a growing genre: picture books for older readers.