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ICE AGE CAVE BEAR by Barbara Hehner


The Giant Beast that Terrified Ancient Humans

by Barbara Hehner & illustrated by Mark Hallett

Age Range: 10 - 12

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-375-81329-2
Publisher: Crown

“Inside the dark cave, the huge bear reared up on its hind legs and snarled, revealing long, pointed teeth . . . ” So says the blurb, but in the text, the author states: “ . . . experts have concluded that for all their massive bodies, long claws, and pointed canine teeth . . . cave bears were mostly plant-eaters.” Readers lured into this title by the ferocious cover illustration may come to a screeching halt when they catch sight of the densely packed text inside. In some cases, this text is almost impossible to read, overwhelmed by the background art. The author describes conditions on earth before, during, and after the last Ice Age, and explores the evolution of bears from the tiny squirrel-like Miacis that lived 30-40 million years ago, to the modern polar bear, American black bear, and the giant panda. In between, she tries to make the subject come alive, with mini-dramas about the ancient cave bear and early humans that may have feared, hunted, and revered them. More questions than answers here, and the organization is confusing. Fussy format makes ideas hard to follow. For example, some text appears on torn tan paper, some text appears superimposed on cave paintings, some is interrupted with odd boxes, like “Into the Dragon’s Lair,” which recounts tales of dragons that may actually be bones of the cave bear. Includes a brief glossary, index, further reading, and picture credits. This large-size potboiler is strictly marginal. (Nonfiction. 10-12)