________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 19 . . . . May 11, 2007


Old Mother Bear.

Victoria Miles. Illustrated by Molly Bang.           
San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2007.
32 pp., cloth, $21.95.
ISBN 978-0-8118-5033-9.

Subject Headings:
Grizzly bear-Juvenile fiction.
Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary (B.C.)-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Laura Dodwell-Groves.

**** /4


She had been born in a den like this one, twenty-four summers before. Since the grizzly was three years old, she had made her own dens, always in the high ground, usually on the dark side of a mountain. Sometimes she tunneled into a steep, forested hillside; in other years she squeezed into a cave. After nine days the den was complete. The tired bear curled up and tucked her nose into her warm belly. Overnight her drowse deepened, her heartbeat and breathing slowed, and her body cooled a little. Snow fell heavy on the mountain. Within a week, the only sign that life slept below was a thin ribbon of gray mist that threaded the dark sky every time the old grizzly exhaled.


It seems simple in essence: mother bear shows her cubs the world: how to eat, hunt, fight and survive. But it is that simplicity, so beautifully told and illustrated, that gives this story its strength. Old mother bear teaches her cubs everything she knows about how to survive and fight. Soon the cubs go out on their own, their mother’s knowledge giving them all the tools they need. And now the old brown bear is alone on her mountain, still feeding but every day gets just that little bit harder, and that little bit more tiring.

internal art

     Victoria Miles’ words are powerful and well chosen. She manages to evoke emotion even if there is only action being described. The seasons almost turn into their own characters. At first, I thought there were too many words, but they are so artfully and appropriately used.

     Molly Bang’s illustrations are spectacular. The colors evoke vitality. The illustrations are created with oil paint and chalk which creates a wonderfully rich texture. The backgrounds and bears mean that green and brown are very frequent colors, but the texture prevents them looking tired. The illustration and text create a delightful symphony of emotion and color and tell a simple but powerful story of an old brown bear and her last litter.

Highly Recommended.

Laura Dodwell-Groves is a Master of Children’’s Literature student at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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