I know a Bear – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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bearTitle: 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.

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15 Responses to I know a Bear – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Oh! Can’t wait to read it…quiet yet thunderous!

  2. rhythm says:

    Oh Wow! That cover sure got my attention!! Looks like a great tale! Thanks Ms Marple!

  3. Love that cover. Love this unusual bear story. The bear’s memories of freedom in the wild tug at your heart. Such a great discussion with children. Can’t wait to read it. We really need perspectives like this.

  4. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    This sounds like a lovely book. I will put it on my library list. Thanks!

  5. Tiffa says:

    I really need to read this book with my son. It looks beautiful! I’m constantly searching for picture books in French — I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of it. Thank you for recommending it. I’m going to finally get my act together and get it.

    Happy Friday and thank you again for the recommendation.

  6. This looks thoughtful – will need to find it now.

  7. Andrea says:

    Love the illustrations! I’m always looking for books that have different layers of meaning. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Joanne Sher says:

    Looks interesting and ponderous 🙂 Definitely wanna try to pick it up. Thanks!

  9. This sounds like such a special book, Joanna! And I love your pairing of it with Ivan. So true – zoos are a tough topic. Have you read A Boy And A Jaguar? The boy talks to the caged jaguar in the beginning and it’s so sad because she longs for her freedom 🙁 I will have to read this one – it sounds wonderful.

  10. Oh, I read the first line and left to see if my library has it. No such luck, but I’ll either request it or put it on my “I must get this one.” So very lovely. Thanks for sharing it.

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