Written by Anne Rockwell, Illustrated by Megan Halsey
Walker & Company, 2006
One winter day, a bear came to a cave in the woods.
The plot in a nutshell: A bear finds himself in someone’s backyard.
The bear in the cave gives birth to a cub during the winter and they both come out into the world in the spring. She teaches him how to find food, climb trees quickly and all the other things he needs to know. The following winter, they hibernate together and when they come out, machines are cutting down trees and bulldozing the land around them. Mother knows it’s time to leave the cub on his own, so that he can fend for himself. But he doesn’t understand why she left and he spends much of his time crying for her. The construction workers build houses on the cleared land and the bear lives in the backyards of those houses, finding that he can forage for food in their trash cans. One day, a mother and her baby are playing in the backyard and the baby sees the bear. The mother calls the game warden, who comes and collects the bear and takes him to a spot in the woods where he can be where he belongs.
My first impression of this story, from author Anne Rockwell, was that it left me feeling sad. But I believe that’s really due to the story’s bluntness in describing this bear’s life. Ms. Rockwell tells us that it’s natural for mother bears to leave their cubs, teaching them to be on their own, but it’s heartbreaking to see the bear so distressed, especially when the forest around him is being destroyed. Ms. Rockwell includes an author’s note with some information about bears in suburban areas and ways to keep your backyard safe. Megan Halsey’s illustrations, in pen and ink and watercolor, are mostly done in forest shades of green and brown. Other colors creep in when the houses go up, but everything returns to the forest colors when the bear is returned to his own habitat. It’s a good story, but I can’t say I really enjoyed it very much, because I was just feeling so bad for the poor bear.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that everyone deserves a place to live where they are safe from harm and not posing a danger to anyone.