From School Library Journal
Grade 1–4—From the wide-open spaces of southern British Columbia comes this fictionalized tale of a mother grizzly bear and her cubs. In a documentary style, the story follows Mother Bear from the winter she birthed her last three cubs until her 27th and last hibernation. Using matter-of-fact language, the author treats her subjects with genuine respect and obvious admiration. She writes of topics like nursing, scent trails, and aging in the same casual tone as hibernation and eating. A beautiful example comes after she crawls into her last den: "…a crying storm descended upon the slope. But the grizzly knew nothing of it. She was already gone, past drowse and beyond winter. Her memory she left with every cub she had ever reared; her body she released to the mountain." The authentic portrayal of the animals makes the pastel illustrations an apt fit for the book's style. Bang portrays the cubs as small bears, not teddy bears. The focus of the art stays on the activities in the text with a few generous glimpses of the scenic views. When appropriate, the illustrator shows honest expressions on the face of mother bear. The length of the story and the slightly sophisticated vocabulary mark this as a read-together book. The informative nature of this honest tale will make it as educational for readers as it is enjoyable.—June Wolfe, Bushnell-Sage Library, Sheffield, MA
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At the advanced age of 27, a grizzly bear in British Columbia's Khutzeymateen wildlife sanctuary gives birth to three cubs. The detailed zoology facts are the gripping story in this realistic picture book, which is based on true events and illustrated in beautifully textured, close-up, oil-and-chalk artwork by Caldecott Honor Book artist Bang.
Words and illustrations show the bear cubs close up, nursing in the den, crawling, growing stronger, and wrestling with each other. Then, in spring, the mother leads them above ground, where they find food, including squirrels and berries, as they explore further. In an exciting confrontation, she rears up to defend her cubs against a huge male intruder. Always there is the sense of her as an aging mother, tired but wonderfully experienced. After three years, the cubs leave her, and an exquisite final portrait shows the mother upright, still and quiet, before she dies. Without anthropomorphism, the one animal's viewpoint is the drama. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved