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Tunes for Bears to Dance To Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Numb and lonely after his brother's death, Henry is befriended by a bigoted new employer, who attempts to involve the boy in an act of cruelty against a Holocaust survivor. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9-- This brief, compelling book conveys the devastating effects of evil, whether its form is as huge and incomprehensible as the Holocaust, or as small and personal as another human being. Henry, a young teenager, is lucky to be employed. Since his brother's re cent death, his father is paralyzed by depres sion; his mother works long hours to support the family. It's the early 1950s, and, with the return of the servicemen, housing and jobs are scarce. Unfortunately, Henry's boss is a bigot ed, abusive individual whose hatred of others is so consuming that he intentionally sets out to corrupt the boy's goodness. He forces Henry to commit an ugly, violent act and betray a friendship with an elderly neighbor who has lost his home and family to the Nazis. As part of his rehabilitative therapy, Mr. Levine loving ly carves his vanished village and its population out of wood. The scenes in which he is ``home'' again demonstrate the Holocaust's horror in a deeply moving manner, and Cormier wrench ingly personalizes the man's grief. Tunes for Bears to Dance To , more a parable than a fully realized novel, is sharp, short, and to the point. The characters are fairly one-dimensional and their circumstances are portrayed as black or white. Why they are ``good'' or ``evil'' is not explained, and little room is left for shades of gray. They simply embody the concepts Cor mier is exploring. This book has limitations, but it will not be easily forgotten. It will make fascinating material for group discussion. -- Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, County of Henrico Public Library, Richmond, VA
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 840L (What's this?)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 101 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (April 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440219035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440219033
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.3 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By michael j. ernst on April 21, 2000
Format: School & Library Binding
Once again, Cormier causes the reader to pause and think aboutreal world issues that teens encounter: moral reasoning (questioningright versus wrong), questions of identity, prejudice, violence, and obeying authority figures.
Henry Cassavant is essentially "good"; he does as he is told, is respectful of others, holds an after school job, and is responsible. However, Henry is not without problems as his family has experieced the death of his older brother causing his father to be emotionally unstable requiring hospitalization/therapy. This puts a financial strain on the family as Henry's mother works as a waitress to make ends meet; Henry works for the grocer Mr. Hariston. Hariston has contempt for all races and religions other than the Aryan perspective. Clearly, Hariston is the antagonist as he serves as Henry's chief nemesis. Hariston comments on his own personnae: "I was like a dictator, the way they treated me. I was a dictator. Because I had control over them." Hariston likes control. He purposefully and emotionally manipulates Henry to commit an anti-semitic act against kindly Mr.Levine. Henry vacilates questioning "why?" but Hariston's argument is "why not"; Hariston threatens the welfare of Henry's family if Henry does not comply. Reluctantly,Henry participates in the treachery against Mr. Levine by destroying the hand carved village, which served as a memorial to Holocaust survivors and victims. When the deed is done, the Grinch-like Harriston accosts Henry and offers him the rewards for the deed. Henry refuses and reflects: "It was he was after all the time. Not just the old man and his village. He didn't want me to be good anymore.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Pardo, Bak Middle School of the Arts on May 20, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Your brother has just died, your dad is in a deep stage of depression, your mom is never home and you've just moved to a new town where you know no one. This sounds like most peoples nightmare but this is Henry's life in the book Tunes for Bears to Dance to by Robert Cormier. Since his father is in no condition to work Henry most work at the store down the street from his house. He doesn't really like it there because his boss is extremely rude and disregards peoples feelings. Mr. Hairston (Henry's boss) has never bothered him until he find out he has befriended a holocaust survivor, Mr. Levine. Mr. Hairston suddenly puts Henry in a compromising position, does he hurt his new friend or does he keep his job?
I found the book extremely enjoyable. Like most of Cormier's books, I couldn't put it down. I felt like I was at Busch Gardens on Montu because there was so many twists. I felt that is was a little short and could have had more details about what happens once he moves back, but other then that it was good. If you have ever read any of Cormier's books and liked them you should read Tunes for Bears to Dance. The end will totally surprise you, the only way to find out is to read it so go to the nearest library and check it out you will not be disappointed.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Henry Veit on November 20, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The book Tunes for Bears to Dance to, by Robert Cormier, is a juvenile fiction novel. In it, the protagonist Henry faces some real problems. His brother had recently died and this had thrown the whole family into sorrow. His father did not work; his mother was forced to hold down to jobs for little pay at all. Henry works in a grocery store for Mr. Hariston, an evil bigot who would like noting more than to stare out his store window throwing nasty comments about passing people. Henry, innocent to Mr. Hairiston's bigotry trust him to provide a means of income for his struggling family. In due coarse Henry encounters and befriends Mr. Levine, an old Holocaust survivor with an amazing talent. Every day Mr. Levine goes to the town craft center and widdles out of wood an exact replica of his old village that was destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. Henry innocently tells his boss about this along with his desire for a monument for his brother's grave. Mr. Hariston then tells Henry that he will get the monument, his mother will get a raise, and he himself will keep his job if he does "one easy task". That task is to destroy the old man's wooden village. Henry is now faced with a quandary on whether to destroy the village or not. I believe this book, me being an 8th grade reader, is sophisticated enough to get a real impact from. In addition, the problem was introduced late in the story and then was resolved quickly and abruptly. On the other hand the book illustrated the, theme bigotry and abuse of power very well. Both sides of the story were described and the reader got an understanding of the choice Henry could have made and the choice he did actually make. The book has characters that seem real and the struggles Henry faces are those many children around his age face in some way or another.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 24, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
With the troops from WWII just reentering the job market, eleven-year-old Henry Cassavant is lucky to work at the Corner Market owned by Mr. Hairston. Even if his boss is a bigot.

Henry's family is going through hard times. His brother recently died, and his family's moved to a new town to work through the grieving process. His mother is working multiple jobs to help pay the bills. His father is hit the hardest, falling into a deep depression that sends him to "the hospital across town" for help.

Through simple curiosity, Henry befriends the elderly Mr. Levine, a Holocaust survivor who lives in the "Crazy House" next door to Henry's family. His friendship with the old man, contrasted with the racism of his boss, makes for a crazy end to the story.

Don't let this novel's length deceive you...TUNES FOR BEARS TO DANCE TO is a short, powerful little read that tackles the deep topics of racism, depression, and child abuse. Henry's story will no doubt leave readers thinking and wondering: What would we do in the same situation? What does it mean to be a good person? How far would we go to make ends meet?

With cutthroat tension, Robert Cormier reminds us all that sometimes the greatest evils lurk in the most familiar of places. Sometimes, they're inside ourselves.

--- Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens
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