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THE BEAR MAKERS by Andrea Cheng


by Andrea Cheng

Age Range: 11 - 15

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59078-518-8
Publisher: Front Street/Boyds Mills

Many stories about World War II experiences are personalized via handed-down accounts from relatives, and Cheng’s novel, set in postwar Budapest, is no exception, as her grandmother was the original bear maker. Eleven-year-old Kata recounts her Jewish family’s struggle to survive without openly rebelling against the regimentation of the Hungarian Workers Party. Her older brother manages to escape to America; her father sinks into depression when the state takes over his factory; her mother anxiously sews teddy bears and handbags to sell on the black market. Threaded through the narrative are short wartime flashbacks to when Kata and brother Bela were harbored by their aunt on her farm. As the pacing and emotional tension slowly build to an unresolved ending, the reader is left to decide if Bela can rescue his family or if they’ll be forced to relinquish all individual rights for the sake of the Party. Bold chapter numbers are backed with strips of bear pattern-pieces with handwritten directions, a subtle motif that resembles the pieces of a crumbling family. (Historical fiction. 11-15)