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.