Bear in the Family
Bear in the Family
It was a path they’d travelled often, but now it looked different. There wasn’t one tree that wasn’t either toppled over or burned to a skeleton sticking into the sky. The smell of the fire filled their noses and throats.
“Where did all the animals go?” Hunter asked.
“The animals would have run away and the birds would have flown off,” their mother said.
“But there were still chicks in the nests. What would have happened to them?” he asked.
“I’m sorry to say they wouldn’t have survived the fire,” their mother answered.
“But all the other animals got away, right?”
She took a deep breath. “I’m sure most of them got away, but sometimes they get trapped. I’m sorry.” She took another drink. “Do you want to rest a little bit longer?”
“Isn’t the Jennings place just over this hill?” Jasmin asked.
“Yes. It’s just up ahead.”
“Then we should go,” Hunter answered. “I want to know their house is all right.”
“You two need to understand that it might not be,” their mother said.
“But our house was fine,” Hunter said.
“Our house was built to be fire resistant. I just want you to be prepared for whatever we find.”
They got their packs on and started moving again. They got to the top of the rise and looked ahead. At first it seemed like they were in the wrong place. It had to be farther ahead. And then Jasmin saw the stone fireplace. It was all that was left. The rest of the house was gone.
After nine-year-old Jasmin and her seven-year-old brother, Hunter, along with their parents, baby sister, and old dog see that their home survived the huge forest fire they were forced to flee, the siblings, their mom and dog go to investigate the neighbours’ property. While there, the dog, Brody, discovers a baby bear stuck deep in an underground hole. The cub, just weeks old, is extracted from the hole, and Jasmin manages to feed it one of her little sister’s bottles of milk. Mom lets them bring the cub home, and they name it Boo-Boo. Boo-Boo likes cuddling Hunter’s favourite stuffed toy, Bruno the bear. The first night with Boo-Boo, Jasmin, Brody, and Boo-Boo all sleep together so that Boo-Boo feels comfortable and safe and Jasmin can feed him every time he cries for a bottle. While the kids would love to keep Boo-Boo as a pet, their parents explain why that wouldn’t be fair to the bear as it grows up.
The next day, when Dad takes Hunter, Jasmin, and Boo-Boo to the local veterinarian to find out where Boo-Boo should go for a permanent home, the veterinarian tells them that they’ll have to take care of Boo-Boo for another two weeks until the overwhelmed bear-rescue people are able to take him. Jasmin and Hunter are delighted. By the end of the two weeks, everyone loves Boo-Boo even more. However, Jasmin and Hunter now understand much better why they cannot raise a bear – with nails like razors and teeth like needles – as a pet. Jasmin gives the bear-rescue people one last bottle of milk for Boo-Boo, and Hunter gives them Bruno so that Boo-Boo won’t be lonely. Even Brody gives Boo-Boo a lick good-bye. Shortly after the bear rescue people leave, the vet shows up with a new puppy for Jasmin, Hunter, and Brody to love.
Walters’ Bear in The Family is told from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. Barinova’s illustrations show a racially-mixed marriage. Throughout, Walters does a good job of showing the characters’ moods, but the third person narration seems to somewhat dampen feelings. The story is clearly and well-told, touching on pertinent topics such as wild-fires and the need for wildlife sanctuaries.
Karen Rankin is a Toronto, Ontario, author and teacher.