Title: I Know a Bear
Written and illustrated by: Mariana Ruiz Johnson
Published by: Schwarz & Wade Books, 2014 (originally published in France as J’ai un Ours by Editions Gallimard Jeunesse, Paris, 2011)
Themes/Topics: zoo animals, bears, listening
Suitable for ages: 3-7
I know a bear that comes from far away.
A little girl regularly visits her local zoo where she listens to a bear who tells of his home in the wild, a vast and wondrous Land of the Bears – a land where ‘rivers are like bathtubs’ and ‘trails are lush’, a place to which he will never be able to return.
Why I like This Book:
What a deep and meaningful philosophical reflection in sparse and beautiful words for very young children. A story which looks at life in zoos and life in the wild and the art and value of listening. The ending is utterly fitting and bittersweet (though the adult reader may need to discuss the importance of not releasing pets into the wild which are ill adapted to such a life). A gem of a story, quiet yet thunderous. With exquisite illustrations in a muted palate except for the girls gorgeous yellow hair, rendered in graphite pencil and finished in Adobe Photoshop.
This is also a beautiful parable about empathy. Older and younger children will appreciate this story on different levels. The gentle cadence makes it a lovely read-aloud.
The author/illustrator lives in Argentina and this his her first picture book published in the US. I hope we see more.
I have mixed feelings about zoos and have written several posts on them: The Eagles Are Back, Knut: how one little polar bear captivated the world, Endangered Species Day
A trip to your local zoo with a discussion afterwards.
Discussion on the importance of listening and how that makes someone feel.
Pair with One and Only Ivan and True & Remarkable Story of Ivan.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.