An engaging tale of bears from the animals’ perspective.


Author Marie-Paule Mahoney and illustrator James Mahoney (Molly and Babou, 2014), along with artist Guiza (Ruff to Riches, 2016), offer an illustrated chapter book about a bear’s continuing adventures.

Black bear Babou discovered a sick, orphaned young cub called Coco and got her help from a veterinarian. Now seven months old and 40 pounds, Coco needs a proper “mama bear” to teach her survival skills before their hibernation instinct kicks in and they need to get away from more settled areas. On a journey north, Babou and Coco get permission from the local “dada bears” to find Coco an adoptive mother. Babou discovers a good candidate, a friendly bear with two cubs of her own, who agrees to foster Coco in exchange for Babou’s finding her a bigger den; Babou dubs her “Good Mama.” Coco learns bear essentials from Good Mama and her cubs before they all hibernate together. Afterward, the bears search for food, meet other animals, and enjoy springtime. Babou and Coco return south for a short visit, just in time to help the veterinarian’s dog, Rags, who has a heart problem. Back up north, Coco becomes friendly with Spiky, a young bear. After hibernating, she gives birth to two cubs of her own, whom she can now teach to live the wild life “that she was born to live.” In this follow-up, the author doesn’t attempt to make bears into human substitutes, as so many children’s books do. Barring a few anthropomorphic moments (such as Coco’s tears), the work is realistic about the sometimes-frightening struggles that bears face in the wild and the dangers they face from people. Unusually, readers get the story from an ursine point of view; for example, Good Mama approves when Coco gets rid of the veterinarian’s radio collar even though it’s meant to help keep her safe. The illustrations mix a realistic cartoon style with photos (and one black-and-white drawing), a decision that portrays Coco’s world well. The plot is episodic and can feel disconnected at times, although the overall life-cycle theme is helpful.

An engaging tale of bears from the animals’ perspective.

Pub Date: June 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4787-9453-0

Page Count: 98

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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Troubled teen meets totemic catalyst in Mikaelsen’s (Petey, 1998, etc.) earnest tribute to Native American spirituality. Fifteen-year-old Cole is cocky, embittered, and eaten up by anger at his abusive parents. After repeated skirmishes with the law, he finally faces jail time when he viciously beats a classmate. Cole’s parole officer offers him an alternative—Circle Justice, an innovative justice program based on Native traditions. Sentenced to a year on an uninhabited Arctic island under the supervision of Edwin, a Tlingit elder, Cole provokes an attack from a titanic white “Spirit Bear” while attempting escape. Although permanently crippled by the near-death experience, he is somehow allowed yet another stint on the island. Through Edwin’s patient tutoring, Cole gradually masters his rage, but realizes that he needs to help his former victims to complete his own healing. Mikaelsen paints a realistic portrait of an unlikable young punk, and if Cole’s turnaround is dramatic, it is also convincingly painful and slow. Alas, the rest of the characters are cardboard caricatures: the brutal, drunk father, the compassionate, perceptive parole officer, and the stoic and cryptic Native mentor. Much of the plot stretches credulity, from Cole’s survival to his repeated chances at rehabilitation to his victim being permitted to share his exile. Nonetheless, teens drawn by the brutality of Cole’s adventures, and piqued by Mikaelsen’s rather muscular mysticism, might absorb valuable lessons on anger management and personal responsibility. As melodramatic and well-meaning as the teens it targets. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-380-97744-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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