Review By JENNIFER GANNETT
Bear-ly There is a refreshing look at the now common conflict between wild animals and people (and property). This book has a wonderful message of accountability and respect for all different kinds of human and non-human animals, as well as a thoughtful and empowered young protagonist.
The story opens with a bear coming out of hibernation. We are treated to some really lovely details from the bear’s perspective as he wakes to the world and forages for food. Meanwhile, nearby, young Charlie is caring for his pet geese as they too enjoy the spring. The book depicts Charlie keeping his geese safe, especially in the evening, so that they will be safe from any nocturnal animals who may cause the geese problems (referred to in the story as visitors).
When the bear breaks into the shed and eats some birdseed, Charlie and his neighbors begin talking about the bear. Many neighbors express concern about bear-related damage. Charlie begins researching ways to prevent conflicts between humans and bears, creating an informational poster which he posts at the town bulletin board. Those well versed in human-bear conflicts will nod knowingly at the subtitle of Charlie’s poster: The bear isn’t the problem–you are!
Knowing that education isn’t full substitution for preparation, Charlie and his parents come up with a plan for scaring the bear away if he reappears. When he does, the family is equipped with loud noisemakers and the bear flees back into the woods. The family has one more encounter with the bear late in the summer. While out blueberry picking, they encounter the bear from a distance in a meadow. As Charlie wisely points out to his parents, it much better seeing him out in the wild than in their backyard.
Author and illustrator Rebekah Raye has crafted a beautiful book with beautiful illustrations. There is so much to like about this story for older preschoolers and elementary children: the responsibility evinced by Charlie and his family, the message regarding human responsibility for interactions with wild creatures and the conscientiousness with which Charlie approaches this task. While so many disheartening tales of human-bear conflicts abound, this book is a sweet story of a happy ending for all.
Great for ages 5 and up.