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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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Touching Spirit Bear Hardcover – January 9, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 674 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Spirit Bear Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Cole Matthews is angry. Angry, defiant, smug--in short, a bully. His anger has taken him too far this time, though. After beating up a ninth-grade classmate to the point of brain damage, Cole is facing a prison sentence. But then a Tlingit Indian parole officer named Garvey enters his life, offering an alternative called Circle Justice, based on Native American traditions, in which victim, offender, and community all work together to find a healing solution. Privately, Cole sneers at the concept, but he's no fool--if it gets him out of prison, he'll do anything. Ultimately, Cole ends up banished for one year to a remote Alaskan island, where his arrogance sets him directly in the path of a mysterious, legendary white bear. Mauled almost to death, Cole awaits his fate and begins the transition from anger to humility.

Ben Mikaelsen's depiction of a juvenile delinquent's metamorphosis into a caring, thinking individual is exciting and fascinating, if at times heavy-handed. Cole's nastiness and the vivid depictions of the lengths he must go to survive after the (equally vivid) attack by the bear are excruciating at times, but the concept of finding a way to heal a whole community when one individual wrongs another is compelling. The jacket cover photo of the author in a bear hug with the 700-pound black bear that he and his wife adopted and raised is definitely worth seeing! (Ages 12 and older) --Emilie Coulter

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up-Cole Matthews is a violent teen offender convicted of viciously beating a classmate, Peter, causing neurological and psychological problems. Cole elects to participate in Circle Justice, an alternative sentencing program based on traditional Native American practices that results in his being banished to a remote Alaskan Island where he is left to survive for a year. Cynical and street smart, he expects to fake his way through the preliminaries, escape by swimming off the island, and beat the system, again. But his encounter with the Spirit Bear of the title leaves him desperately wounded and gives him six months of hospitalization to reconsider his options. Mikaelsen's portrayal of this angry, manipulative, damaged teen is dead on. Cole's gradual transformation into a human kind of being happens in fits and starts. He realizes he must accept responsibility for what he has done, but his pride, pain, and conditioning continue to interfere. He learns that his anger may never be gone, but that he can learn to control it. The author concedes in a note that the culminating plot element, in which Peter joins Cole on the island so that both can learn to heal, is unlikely. But it sure works well as an adventure story with strong moral underpinnings. Gross details about Cole eating raw worms, a mouse, and worse will appeal to fans of the outdoor adventure/survival genre, while the truth of the Japanese proverb cited in the frontispiece, "Fall seven times, stand up eight" is fully and effectively realized.
Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Series: Spirit Bear (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (January 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380977443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380977444
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (674 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Berryhill on November 16, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am a parent of an 11 year old who read this for her 6th grade book report. As she was reading she was excited about it and read some of it to me in small pieces. I told her a few times it sounded like something that shouldn't be in the school library. She insisted it was good. She finished the book last night and told me, "It changed my life". How many 11 year olds tell you that? I was amazed. She said it touched her and made her want to be a better person. That is how I came here to Amazon. Any book that has that kind of affect I want to research and get a copy of so I can read it. I want to know what changed my daughters outlook. She said this book replaced 'Where the Red Fern Grows' as her favorite. That is big!
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A Kid's Review on February 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Touching Spirit Bear is about a troubled 15-year old boy named Cole. His parents are alcoholics and abuse him. After he hurts Pete, he is sent to a remote island in Alaska. He has a near death experience and realizes all the things he did wrong in his life. I read the whole book in 4 1/2 hours nonstop. I think this book not only shows how Cole changed but it shows how people with many troubles can change. I think this book shows a valuable lesson about life. I would recommend it to anyone who likes to read about adventure, courage, and life. This book definitely deserves a five star rating!
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By J. Remington on February 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading this excellent book with my Fundamentals of Writing Sophomore Class. The vast majority of my class being non readers, they were immediately captivated by the book's protagonist- Cole Matthews, a violent juvenile offender and his quest for healing while being banished to a remote island off the coast of Alaska.

This easy to read book, written in accessible prose by Mikaelson incorperates a wide variety of themes and issues. The concepts of healing, forgiveness, survival in the wilderness and personal discovery all work together to weave a narrative that inspires great writing and discussions from any class-even a class of "non-readers".

This book easily became one of my most successful units to date in my 16 year teaching career.

A rich, entertaining and didactic read!
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A Kid's Review on March 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Touching Spirit Bear" is a book about a very angry and abused fifteen year old who is facing a prison sentence for attacking and injuring a fellow nineth-grder. While waiting for the courts decision Cole, the boy, was kept in a detention center. During his stay in the detention center he was asked to apply for circle justice. After all of the arrangements were made Cole was sent to live by himself on an island off the coast of Alaska for a year. His stay on the island was cut short by a near death experience that some how made Cole realize what life had to offer and wanted to change. Cole was given a second chance and he takes the opportunity this time by helping himself and Peter, the boy he beat up. I hope there is a seaquel.
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Format: Paperback
The concept of "timeout" is here taken to the extreme. Teenage Cole Matthew's journey from an angry, lying thug to a sensitive, thoughtful human is compelling, if a little overwrought. Beaten by his alcoholic father (who himself was beaten), Cole has to come to terms with who he is and what he has done, which is little short of lying throughout his life and senselessly beating classmate Peter for no reason. For this crime, he is about to be jailed. But the offer by Garvey, his parole officer and himself a one-time offender, of "Circle Justice" - a concept practised by native cultures that has healing and forgiveness as its core elements - is an option he cannot refuse, even though it means isolation on a remote island in Alaska.

Whether it is the process of self-awareness that Cole moves through first in his near escape from death one day into his banishment and afterwards during a year on the island, or whether it is the care and thoughtful attention of his mentors, Garvey and Edwin, his surrogate parents, is left for the reader to decide. Probably it is a combination of both -- and no less of an actual encounter with a large, white "spirit bear." The symbolism of the bear is clear. It represents all that is instinctively good and powerful in nature. The "spirit bear" is utterly sensitive to the truth; it will tell Cole (and the reader) if redemption is possible and it will tell Peter if he can forgive Cole. Only then will healing take place and the circle of justice completed.

You cannot read this book without looking at yourself and asking what happens during those moments of rage that we all feel. Take a deep breath; take a time out; get away to an island for as long as you can to know yourself and your place in the circle of life.
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Format: Paperback
Touching Spirit Bear has to be one of the best books I've ever read. It really shows how a tragic inccident can have a huge impact on a person's life. Ben Mikaeksen's writing made it feel like you were really there.

Here is a brief summary of the book: Cole Matthews is a violent and mean kid. One day he smashes a kid named Peter Driscal's head into the sidewalk, causing him to have severe head injuries and possibly permanent brain damage. Cole blames everyone else but himself including his abusive dad and alcoholic mother. As punishment for his actions, he gets bannished to a remote Alaskan island. After being mauled by a Spirit Bear, will he then change his observation of life?

Again good book, it teaches valuable life lessons and the process of healing. For those of you who haven't read this book, let me just say that there is a shocking twist towards that you would never guess would happen. Final word: READ THE BOOK!
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