A useful resource for children with a relative or friend fighting cancer.


Bear and the "Big C"


Dittmer (Breast Cancer: The Unplanned Journey—Lessons Learned, 2011) and illustrator Stacy use the approachable and comforting perspective of a stuffed bear to help children cope with and understand the changes affecting a cancer patient.

Cancer can be scary, not just for the people going through it, but also for the children watching them suffer. Bear, a stuffed bear, has a halo and wings and a desire to help. Santa gave Bear to Lilli when she was sick, yet when Lilli’s grandmother is diagnosed with cancer, Lilli decides that the best thing she can do is send Bear to help. At first, Bear is nervous he might catch cancer from Grandmother B, but Lilli explains cancer isn’t contagious. Grandmother B is glad to have Bear beside her to fight her cancer “battle.” Grandmother B, Grandpa Paul, Mr. Pye (the cat), and Bear soon move to a big city, where Grandmother B can have easier access to the hospital for her cancer treatments. Bear sticks with Grandmother B through the whole process: removing her breasts so the cancer won’t spread, taking the “strong medicine” of chemotherapy, her hair falling out, visiting a counselor (who “helps Grandmother B feel better in her mind”), and finally celebrating her recovery. Each step of the way, Bear’s growing understanding is delivered in accessible prose. Dittmer never shies away from the realities of cancer, even the possibility of death. Instead, Bear delivers these ideas in ways that make them approachable for children, especially those who live in a faith-driven environment. Vocabulary is explained well, with new words defined in the text as Bear learns how to use medical terms. The amount of text puts it at an independent-reading level, but the ideas and tone are better geared toward younger lap readers. A guide in the back also helps parents know how to approach the text and talk about cancer with their children. Stacy’s child-friendly illustrations are in a simplistic cartoon style, with each page prominently featuring the cute stuffed animal.

A useful resource for children with a relative or friend fighting cancer.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2015


Page Count: -

Publisher: Western Computer Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2015

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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