With the help of Old Bear, Corky lives her life intentionally.
Old Bear is the “keeper of time and keys,” and when Corky is born, the big, pillowy-looking old ursine gives the little dark-haired, white child her days, two empty lists (one for dreams and one for things to do), her key, and a simple, whispered instruction: “Choose your days, make them sunny or gray.” She takes it seriously. Waking up beneath a clock with an urgent reminder instead of numbers—“Get up! You have stuff to do. Get up!”—Corky grows, moving from tricycle to two-wheeler, aging and becoming stooped over the course of two double-page spreads backgrounded with painterly strokes of aquamarine. Even aged, Corky still wants to pursue “work undone…play postponed…music unsung,” but eventually she must use her key to unlock the door to death, where Old Bear is waiting comfortingly. Wallace’s illustrations are metaphorical and cozy, her pointy-nosed protagonist perpetually clad in red shoes and scarf, striped stockings, and a comfy brown dress. Generous white space encompasses both protagonist and symbols of passing time (calendar pages, the stub of a pencil), giving children the emotional room to contemplate Corky’s progress.
This is the kind of book that will stick with readers, a meditation that they may not understand now but that, if digested, could have magical results. (Picture book. 3-6)