Bear Island

Feiwel & Friends. Jan. 2021. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250317162.
K-Gr 2–Mourning the death of the family dog, Charlie, Louise rows out to a small island beloved by him. Deer, chipmunks, and butterflies begin to appear and suddenly Louise comes face to face with a bear. Her emotions roil at the sight of the bear and she returns his roar with a scream, “Afraid yet…angry. Angry to be made afraid. Angry about Charlie.” But Louise sees her emotions mirrored: “This bear. A familiar feeling. A familiar sadness.” Each day Louise returns to the island as she and the bear help each other heal from grief. As the seasons change and winter arrives, Louise must say goodbye to the bear. The short sentences and spare text lend an immediacy to Louise’s emotions while the loose, sketchy illustrations style use vignettes, storyboards, and full-page spreads to depict a visually stunning journey. Of particular impact is the wordless spread as Louise bids farewell to the bear before he goes into hibernation. The outdoors and its symbiotic relationship with Louise allows her to express herself, cope, remember, and adapt to the loss of Charlie. New beginnings are reflected in butterflies, smiles, changing seasons; an increasing use of color in the illustrations and a new puppy convey the hope of moving on from grief.
VERDICT A poetically beautiful story of grief and healing mirrored in the natural world has a touch of magical realism as a young girl processes her emotions and realizes that endings lead to beginnings.

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