On a ride to Grandma Bibbie’s birthday celebration, young Willa’s beloved rag doll, Rosie, is lost in the dark woods then comes back in an unexpected way.
After the horse-drawn sleigh hits a bump and Rosie flies out into the snow, Willa and her parents stop to search—but the sun is going down, and they must get on. After they leave, a bear finds the doll, puts it on his back and pads along behind. When Willa arrives at her grandparents’ cabin she is presented with a small sewn bear that matches Grandpa’s new trousers. Catching sight of the real bear through the window she cries a warning, but when Papa cracks the door to peer out he finds only Rosie on the doorstep. Later, on the way home, Willa leaves the toy bear in the snow in exchange. “My friend will love you,” she whispers…and indeed, the last scene is a view of the live bear, curled in his den, clutching the cloth one. Unlikely as the episode may be, it has a cozy feel that O’Neill’s paintings, which strongly resemble Garth Williams’ Little House illustrations in settings and homespun style, amplify. The human figures are all white, ruddy of cheek, and dressed in country clothing; the snuffling bear is depicted with comfortably shaggy and rotund naturalism.
A sweet tale of giving and giving back. (Picture book. 5-7)