A powerful character-driven story about an unlikely friendship between a teenage girl and a grizzly bear. Hauntingly beautiful, almost dreamlike in places, Dreaming the Bear is likely to become a children’s classic comparable to David Almond’s Skellig.
Longlisted for the 2017 CILIP Carnegie Medal
Darcy’s a typical teenager whose natural habitat is the shopping mall and the multiplex. It’s therefore not surprising that she’s finding it almost impossible to adjust to living in a snowy wilderness without television, a phone signal or wifi. It doesn’t help that she’s also recovering from pneumonia and tires quickly. But it is this very weakness that changes her life when, exhausted, she stumbles into the shelter of a cave and finds herself embraced by a hibernating grizzly bear.
It’s hard to summarise this story so it’s possibly better to allow Darcy herself to explain: I was feeling lost and alone out here in the snowy wilderness until I found the bear. She’s wounded and needs my help but the more time I spent with her the more I wonder if she’s the one helping me, to see the beauty of this place. To feel alive again.
Author Mimi Thebo captures an authentic teen voice and the writing throughout the story is hauntingly beautiful, almost dreamlike in places, while remaining easy to read and enjoy. Again and again, I was reminded of David Almond’s children’s classic Skellig and I can quite see Dreaming the Bear joining the canon of children’s classics. Indeed, it is a book that should easily find its place alongside Skellig on the GCSE English Literature syllabus.
My only slight niggle with the entire book was whether it was really appropriate to promote a girl forming a friendship with a grizzly bear. A little voice at the back of my mind kept asking: is this really appropriate? This voice was, however, silenced when I reached the story’s climax. Without giving the plot away, my concerns were eradicated and tears welled in my eyes at the unexpected turn of events. I’d also like to thank the author for the light hearted laugh-out-loud moment with a lilac hat just three pages on from this dramatic climax.
I can see adults and many young readers will love this book with its lyrical writing and powerful storyline. For the right type of reader this will undoubtedly be a 5 star book and I fully expect it to be nominated for, and win, a large number of literary prizes. However, like Skellig’, I suspect this book will divide readers, between avid fans and those who prefer more action-packed plot-based stories. This powerful character-driven story is unlikely to appeal to reluctant readers or those who are accustomed to cinematic storytelling.
If you enjoyed Dreaming the Bear, you will also enjoy Skellig by David Almond and then My Name Is Mina by David Almond.
Publication date: February 2016
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Author: Mimi Thebo
Review first published on The Bookbag