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TUNES FOR BEARS TO DANCE TO by Robert Cormier

TUNES FOR BEARS TO DANCE TO

By Robert Cormier

Age Range: 11 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-385-30818-3
Publisher: Delacorte

Emblematic though they are, Cormier's characters have a vigor and authenticity surpassing creations of less accomplished authors of more realistic fiction. Here, protagonist Henry (11) retains all his essential innocence despite a troubled family: mourning the death of Henry's older brother, his mother is supporting them in a low-paying job while his father has withdrawn into a paralyzing depression. The grocer for whom Henry does odd jobs serves as evil incarnate, barely clothed in respectability: first glimpsed making vicious remarks to Henry about his customers' origins and physical defects, he is revealed to be an abusive parent and husband (Henry doesn't quite read the clues, but readers will), and finally tempts--then blackmails--Henry, wielding overwhelming pressure in an attempt to force him to destroy the village a kindly old Holocaust survivor has carved to commemorate his lost home. In classic Cormier fashion, the conclusion is unexpected, with surprises grounded less in the events than in the characters' moral readings of them. Briefer, more easily read, and ultimately less grim than much of Cormier's fiction, a thought-provoking story; for discussion, try comparison with two other incisive and compelling views of the roots of cruel destruction: Jan Slepian's underrated gem, Risk n' Roses (1990) and Paula Fox's hard-edged but compassionate The Village by the Sea (1988). (Fiction. 11+)