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NIKOLAI, THE ONLY BEAR by Barbara Joosse Kirkus Star


by Barbara Joosse & illustrated by Renata Liwska

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: March 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-399-23884-0
Publisher: Philomel

A sensitive adoption story loosely based on fact, but given an imaginative twist that makes it uncommonly moving. All of the residents of Novosibirsk Orphanage Number One are human except for Nikolai. Being a bear, his play is too rough for the children, his roars and growls not understood by his adult caregivers. But that all changes when a man with a “furry face” and a woman with “moonlight hair and lake water eyes” arrive from America to hold his paw, growl and roughhouse with him, and at last, ask him to be part of their family. Liwska debuts with quietly composed scenes in muted colors; Nikolai, a small, smudged, dark brown cub with a red kerchief, stands out among the other ragdoll-like figures, his feelings expressed in relatively subtle but clear shifts of head and posture. Economically told, deeply felt, this will leave readers feeling, like Nikolai near the end, “soft bearish.” (Picture book. 5-8)