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I KNOW A BEAR

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 8 years, 2 months ago

24 September 2014 I KNOW A BEAR by Mariana Ruiz Johnson, Random House/Schwartz & Wade, September 2014, 28p., ISBN: 978-0-385-38614-2

 

“Mercy mercy me

Things ain’t what they used to be, no no”

-- Marvin Gaye, 1971

 

“I know a bear that comes from far away. From a place he calls the Land of the Bears. He tells me that the breakfasts there are sweet, the trails are lush, and the rivers are like bathtubs.”

 

I KNOW A BEAR is one of the most thought-provoking books of 2014. It sure stopped me in my tracks.

 

Two-thirds of the way through this dreamy romp of a little-girl-and-a-bear picture book story, it is revealed that the bear is, in fact, real and that the little girl visits him at the zoo. The story concludes with the little girl opening a window at home and happily liberating her pet bird from its cage.

 

The many liberating sociological and technology advances and transitions that have occurred over the past sixty years make me feel that I’ve lived through one of the most amazing eras in the history of mankind. At the same time, the disappearance of so many species and so much of the planet’s open space and natural beauty provides a sobering counterweight to those gains.

 

The real tragedy of I KNOW A BEAR and of the 2013 Newbery Medal winner THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN is that many large mammals may be safer living in captivity than in the wild. I was awed as a child in the late 1950s by the lions, tigers, hippos, rhinos and elephants at the Bronx Zoo. Now many of those species are gone or nearing extinction due to soaring human populations and poaching.

 

We can continue to work toward more humane zoos. Otherwise, there are no clear remedies for these struggles over land use and resource exploitation. There is no turning back the clock.

 

With poetic simplicity and charming digitally-enhanced graphite illustrations, I KNOW A BEAR offers the latest generation of rugrats something big to think about.

 

Richie Partington, MLIS

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