________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006



Jim Brennan.
Stratford, PE: Dzyngel Productions (2 Appledore Lane, C1B 2P9), 2005.
49 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 0-9737585-0-3.

Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

* /4


As Forester paws at the wet ground in search of more roots and shoots, his smile fades. He realizes this is precisely the case of Jacob. Jacob was a There bear before he was a Here bear. He chose to become a Here bear. It is the only case Forester ever considered where bears are not a good example. The analysis simply doesn't work the same when bears are used. Besides, he has made a mistake in the process of problem-solving. He is no longer defining the problem. He is at the analysis stage. He can't keep wandering back. No solution will come of such wishy-washy thinking. Years and years of problem-solving have proven the known method as the best method. As smart as Forester is, this is not something he should change. This, he realizes is a rule. There aren't many bear rules. Just bear bones rules: no living bear can make rules. Rules must evolve naturally. That's the rule. For a proper answer, all that can be considered now is analysis and solution.

In this self-published novella, Forester the bear emerges from hibernation grumpy about the highway noise that has disturbed his sleep. He wants to rid the woods of the new "Ribbon of Darkness", an unwelcome invader. After musing about the need to be fair, he tries to learn more about the nature of the problem and then calls a meeting of all forest creatures to develop a plan. They cannot come to an agreement with bear as leader, however. He finally accepts that not all creatures are the same and there may never be a true meeting of the minds.
internal art

     The underlying messages of acceptance of change and tolerance of differences are worthwhile. The book follows the typical pattern of a novella in that Forester analyses the single problem in small stages before coming to a firm realization that his world has been forever changed. It is unclear, however, who the intended audience is for this book. The anthropomorphic animal characters and the frequent use of short sentences seem to address young readers. The mature vocabulary, lack of dialogue and action in the early chapters, and lengthy philosophical musings with abstract concepts would more realistically appeal to adults. However, the text is repetitious and wordy, making it unwieldy in spots and peppered with cliches ("...can't see the forest for the trees...") in a style adult readers would likely find tedious to stick with long enough to hear the theme. More weak editing - in particular, mixed verb tenses and passive constructions - in the first few pages might deter a reader from continuing.

     Although a bear is the protagonist in this illustrated work (about 16 photos are included), there is no visual of a bear. Instead, the book appears to be, in part, a vehicle for showcasing a few of the author's other nature photographs (some of which are displayed at his website). Unfortunately, the illustrations don't necessarily correspond to the text on adjacent pages: eg. a frog and pond plants face a page of Forester's rambling thoughts about a meeting; a fox is shown next to Forester's conversation with a chipmunk and raccoon. This glossy, hard cover book appears to promise more than it delivers for the hefty $19.95 price tag.

Not Recommended.

Gillian Richardson, who lives in BC, is a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian living in BC.

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

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