In medieval England, after the death of his father and his mother's remarriage, Dickon is apprenticed to a tanner. Dickon (like his namesake in The Secret Garden) empathizes strongly with animals and despises his work. When he is sent on an errand to the cruel Bear Pits, where captured bears are forced to fight dogs, he rescues a cub and flees with it. He hooks up with itinerant entertainers and goes with them to France, followed by the evil Bear Catcher, who has plans of his own. In this beautifully written book, the setting and era are vividly evoked, while the plot moves rapidly in unpredictable directions. Periodically, Graham (The Chinese Puzzle, 1988, etc.) interrupts the third-person narrative with italicized passages that, in poetic prose, show readers events through the eyes of the bear cub. These brief sections lift a fine book to an even higher level and plant the story firmly in the imagination.