Instinct: A way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is not learned; a natural desire or tendency that makes you want to act in a particular way – Merriam-Webster
It was the same instinct that five-year old Anna Whyte used to survive when her parents were killed by a bear, just as it was instinct that drove the bear to attack her parents. When the will to live and the hunger of the wild intersect, the story of The Bear is told.
The Bear, is a muscle your way through, no matter what, kind of book about children trapped in the wilderness. Anna and her brother Alex, “Sticky”, are torn which way to go. Because Anna is the oldest she must lead the way and be brave for her brother. On one side is the water and the camping island, but the bear waits for them there. On the other side is a forest with prickly plants that give Anna and Sticky itches and scratches. Which way to turn for help? They take their chances on the forest. Anna uses all her wiles to help her brother, Sticky, claw through the brush, trees and stinging insects to find help. They don’t find any help this way. They spend a restless night waiting for the bear to come. Every time they hear a bush rustle or move, they think it’s the bear coming to get them too. Anna hopes her parents will come soon. Mama promised, “We will be waiting. Daddy and I will be there.”
When they are separated from each other and Anna thinks she has lost her brother, she knows she has disappointed her parents. She is sure her daddy has gone away and is not coming because she’s been a bad girl and can’t find her brother. She finds Sticky but he’s really sick, covered with a rash and welts and his eyes are puffy and swollen shut. He can’t see. Anna is covered with the bubbly itches too, but she must help her brother get back to the shore.
They hear shots. Is someone shooting at them or maybe they are shooting at the bear? She doesn’t know. Anna follows the sound of the shots and they make it back to the shore. The man in the boat asks them if they are the Whyte children? Anna doesn’t care if she’s not supposed to talk to strangers; Sticky is sick and needs help so she says, “yes”.
Claire Cameron is a talented author using the voice of five-year old Anna to tell this story, based loosely on facts. The Bear is a bittersweet story of children, alone in the wilderness, and their fight to survive. Once I started the book, I couldn’t put it down until the end, which was late into the night. All ages will appreciate and identify with Anna’s fight to stay alive and the honest, true voice of childhood. – Sue Cornfield
Also available by Claire Cameron: The Line Painter.