A bear who enjoys gathering and categorizing stones deals with a bully in Parks’ (Pocketmouse at Crystal Cove, 2016) rhyming adventure with illustrations by Karron (Swirl Spirits, 2016, etc.).
Berto isn’t like the other black bears at Yosemite National Park. For one thing, he’s “ghastly afraid / Of climbing the cliffs where other bears played.” But he’s a happy youngster who loves collecting rocks, and he has an official permit from the national park to do so. He particularly likes grouping them into their types: sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic. Unfortunately, being different makes Berto a target for a bully bear named Buck. As Berto hides from his nemesis, he enjoys spying on ranger-led groups of humans; one of the best illustrations shows Berto looking in at a group of predominantly African-American hikers sitting around a campfire, with deer just beyond the shadows and a full sky of stars visible through the trees. When Berto returns home, he finds that Buck has torn apart his carefully labeled rock collection. Inspired by the ranger’s talk on real-life naturalist John Muir and his encounter with some particularly tough granite, Berto confronts Buck and stares him down. Later, when Buck gets stuck in a crevice, no one wants to help him, but Berto, who’s always feared climbing, decides to help his former enemy—if Buck promises to change his ways. Early on, Parks breezes through the science-based introduction in a way that will be accessible to young readers, showing not only the three major divisions of rocks, but also representatives of each type and the places where one might encounter them at Yosemite. Berto’s character development from fearful bear to brave rescuer is convincing, and although the opportunity to rescue Buck is too convenient, it can be forgiven for the sake of the tale. Parks’ stanzas also scan well, and with the exception of one oddly disproportionate illustration, Karron’s art is captivating and delightful.
An adventure that may help young readers find their own inner strength in the face of adversity—and spark their interest in geology as well.