I Am a Bear by Jean-Francois Dumont

I Am a Bear by Jean Francois Dumont

I Am a Bear by Jean-Francois Dumont (InfoSoup)

Told in the first person, this is a story of a bear who finds himself living on the streets of a city. He has a stack of cardboard boxes that make up his home. He isn’t welcome in any of the stores, and finds it safer to scrounge for food after dark. That means that he sleeps most of the day. He had tried to talk with people, but he scared them since he’s such a big bear. He gave up after awhile, paying no attention to those walking past him anymore. Until one day, a little girl notices him and talks directly to him. She returns the next day too and the bear has made an effort to clean up himself and his home. She calls him a teddy bear and visits again and again. Suddenly the bear has something to look forward to each day, and there is hope.

Dumont is the author of The Chickens Build a Wall and the series of silly books that follow it. This book though is a departure from that frenetic cheery tone. Here there is darkness, hunger and need. Here there is a bear who clearly is not actually a bear, but treated as such by society. It does not matter if young readers realize that the bear is a symbol. The story works much the same with a real bear or a real person. The life is hard, the city stark, and hope nonexistent, at first.

The art here is lush and lovely. It shows life on the street both from the bear’s point of view and also from that of an observer like the little girl. The buildings lean and tower above, the traffic is dangerous and close, and the alley is like a canyon. With sharp angles, the perils of life on the street are evident here as appropriate for a child.

A book that will help talk about homelessness and that offers a way forward, kindness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

My Top Picks for Children’s Fiction in 2015

Apple and Rain Beastkeeper

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

The Blackthorn Key Castle Hangnail

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

Cuckoo Song  The Doldrums

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

Echo Fish In A Tree

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

George Gone Crazy in Alabama (Gaither Sisters, #3)

George by Alex Gino

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

Goodbye Stranger Half a Creature from the Sea: A Life in Stories

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Half a Creature from the Sea by David Almond

Listen, Slowly Lost in the Sun

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

The Marvels Moonpenny Island

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb

A Nearer Moon The Nest

A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Night on Fire Orbiting Jupiter

Night on Fire by Ronald Kidd

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Red Butterfly Rules for Stealing Stars

Red Butterfly by A. L. Sonnichsen

Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu

The Sleeper and the Spindle Stella by Starlight

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

The Thing About Jellyfish The War that Saved My Life

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Way Home Looks Now We Are All Made of Molecules

The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

The Wolf Wilder You Can't See the Elephants

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

You Can’t See the Elephants by Susan Kreller, translated by Elizabeth Gaffney