SUMMERS WITH THE BEARS by Jack Becklund

SUMMERS WITH THE BEARS

Six Seasons in the Minnesota Woods
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KIRKUS REVIEW

You know you’re a bear when heaven is a rotten log full of grubs and ants. And you know you have achieved ursine nirvana when you have both a rotten log and a pal like newspaperman Becklund. At first it was just a change of venue for Becklund and his wife, Patti: Florida had paled, and northern Minnesota, where Becklund had old family ties, called to them. They went looking for a new life; they found bears. Not just furtive creatures that stuck to the forest fence, but a host of bears that made warm introductions. They came to dine on the Becklunds’ birdseed when just lonely yearlings (Mother Bear gives Junior the boot after the first winter hibernation), and they stayed. What Becklund has gathered here is anecdotes and observations collected over six years of close association with Little Bit, Big Mama, Skinny, and their children and children’s children. In his homespun, familiar style, Becklund tells of bears smelling like pine; marvels at their ability to move with eerie silence and simply disappear, ghostlike, into the woods; puzzles over why Little Bit can’t get enough blueberries, although she turns her nose up at raspberries. There is also much doting over the bears: concern when a strange bear appears in their midst, anxiety when they—re late in returning after hibernation, a lot of window peeking when the girls start dating. Pleasant and curious as the story is, it would not have the impact it does without the photographs. There sit Becklund and Little Bit together on the porch bench, taking the sun and passing the time; there is Patti idly scratching a bear’s head. The photos have an innocent, snapshot quality that conveys a sense of genuine contentment. Becklund is sentimental about the bears, but he avoids wringing any treacle from their days together. And lest he forget their essential wildness, a little bite—a modest puncture “a half-inch square and three-quarters-inch deep”’serves to remind him. (42 b&w photos) (Book-of-the-Month/Quality Paperback Book Club selection)

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1999
ISBN: 0-7868-6393-5
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999