I am a Bear
Written by JeanFrançois Dumont
Translated by Leslie Matthews
Eerdmans, 2015, 32 pp.
I don’t know how I got here . . . (n.p).
Bear finds himself alone in the city. He does not know how he got there or how to find help. People ignore him or worse, they run away from him. They do not listen to him before they judge him. As Bear becomes more and more disenfranchised from those around him, he is also more and more alienated from himself and the potential of who he is or could be—until he is seen by a young girl who does not fear him. From that moment, his life begins to change.
Jean-François Dumont has written and illustrated a powerful book about a homeless bear and a curious little girl, but astute readers will note the metaphor of homelessness and the possibilities that exist when one is visible to others—to see and be seen. Filled with engaging illustrations that take readers to the alley where Bear lives, to his hopelessness and confusion, and then to the possibility of hope, this lovely narrative reminds us that we all have the potential to see others and to acknowledge them as part of our community and the human family.
I am a Bear would make a terrific addition to a text set on the concept of alienation or disenfranchisement and what it means to be othered. Other books that would make thoughtful companions to this book could include Like a Wolf by Géraldine Eischner (2015) and Fiona Roberts’ (2015) A Tale of Two Beasts, both of which highlight the importance of perception. Like a Wolf is more serious, but both would make wonderful additions to discussion starters on how our perceptions can be both damaging and beneficial to others. If interested in books about compassion, I am a Bear would make an interesting addition to a text set containing narratives such as Thank You, Jackson: How One Little Boy Makes a BIG Difference by Niki Daly (2015) and JonArno Lawson’s (2015) Sidewalk Flowers, two books that show how even little actions can make a big difference within our communities. In addition, pairing this book with The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc (2014) would make for interesting discussions about friendship born out of helpfulness.
Jean-Franćois Dumont lives in France and has written numerous books for young people, including The Sheep Go on Strike (2014), The Geese March in Step (2014), and The Chickens Build a Wall (2013). More information about Mr. Dumont can be found at Eerdmans.
Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH