Girl Who Speaks Bear (The Girl Who Speaks Bear)

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The newest heart-expanding, magical adventure from Sophie Anderson, author of the critically acclaimed House with Chicken Legs.

"They call me Yanka the Bear. Not because of where I was found. Only a few people know about that. They call me Yanka the Bear because I am so big and strong."

Discovered in a bear cave as a baby, 12-year-old Yanka dreams of knowing who she really is. Although Yanka is happy at home with her loving foster mother, she feels out of place in the village where the other children mock her for her unusual size and strength.

So when Yanka wakes up one morning to find her legs have become bear legs, she knows she has no choice but to leave her village. She has to find somewhere she truly belongs, so she ventures into the Snow Forest with her pet weasel, Mousetrap, in search of the truth about her past.

But deep in the forest there are many dangers and Yanka discovers that even the most fantastic stories she grew up hearing are true. And just as she draws close to discovering who she really is, something terrifying happens that could trap her in the forest . . . forever.---from the publisher

350 pages                             978-1474940672                    Ages 9-13

Keywords:  fantasy, adventure, bear, animals, foster family, identity, finding yourself, friends, friendship, princess, dragon, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old

***************** They call me Yanka the Bear. Not because of where I was found - only a few people know about that. They call me Yanka the Bear because I am so big and strong.

Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, Yanka has always wondered about where she is from. She tries to ignore the strange whispers and looks from the villagers, wishing she was as strong on the inside as she is on the outside. But, when she has to flee her house, looking for answers about who she really is, a journey far beyond one that she ever imagined begins: from icy rivers to smouldering mountains meeting an ever-growing herd of extraordinary friends along the way.

Interwoven with traditional stories of bears, princesses and dragons, Yanka's journey is a gorgeously lyrical adventure from the best-selling author of The House With Chicken Legs.---from the publisher

************

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever gonna make it home again

It’s so far and out of sight”

-- Carole King, “Home Again” (1971)

“I remember the bear who raised me. Nuzzling my face into her warm belly. Huge furry limbs shielding me from the biting snow. I remember the deep rumbles of her snores through the silent winter, and clouds of steamy breath smelling of berries and pine nuts.

My foster mother, Mamochka, says I was about two years old when she found me outside the bear cave. She says I was standing naked in the snow, but with warm pink cheeks and the biggest smile. I walked right up to her, lifted my arms into the air, and made a soft barking sound. Mamochka picked me up and I laid my head on her shoulder, wrapped my legs around her waist, and fell straight to sleep. Mamochka says she knew right there and then we were meant to be together.

But if I don’t know where I came from, how can I be sure where I belong?

Mamochka looked in the cave for clues about who I was or who my parents might be, but an old female bear was hibernating inside. Not wanting to disturb her, Mamochka crept away and carried me to her home at the edge of the Snow Forest.

I love living with Mamochka. She’s the best mother I could have wished for, but I often wonder about the bear. I wonder if she remembers me. Maybe even misses me. I wonder about the bear almost as much as I wonder about my real parents. The ones who must have lost me--or left me--in the forest.

One day I’d like to find the story of my past, and I hope it’s something more magical than being unwanted and abandoned as a baby. I hope it’s a tale filled with wonder that explains who I am and why I’m different, why I hear the tree whispering secrets, and why I always feel the forest pulling me in.”

Do you ever find yourself enjoying a book so much that, as you approach the end, you pause at the chapter endings to savor every bit? Have you ever dreaded the imminent arrival of the back cover in a book you just couldn’t put down? For me, this was one of those don’t-ever-want-it-to-end books.

From generation to generation, traditional tales evolve as they are retold. THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR is a fresh, contemporary retelling based on Russian folktales. Having already been published and honored in Britain, the book is now available here in the States.

THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR is a fairy tale adventure and coming-of-age story. Yanka, a foundling of twelve, is unusually strong and oversized, and a bit of an outcast. When she begins transforming physically into a bear, she leaves her adoptive home in a panic, embarking upon a  search for identity in the Snow Forest. On this journey of discovery, she joins up with new friends to face a common enemy. And, like Dorothy Gale, her perilous adventures make her realize that there is no place like home.

Told in the first person, the story immerses us in Yanka’s deepest hopes and fears. The character development is consistently excellent. Yanka’s pet weasel, Mousetrap, the young elk, Yuri, the gray wolf, Ivan, or the fish owl, Blakiston, could each be the focus of a future book. The house with chicken legs, who was the title character in Sophie Anderson’s previous book, is an absolute chew-on-the-curtains scene-stealer, often behaving more like a rambunctious, loyal puppy.

It’s comforting to see Yanka’s Mamochka and her bear grandmother each showing unlimited love for this big little girl they’ve both nurtured. And it’s wonderful how Yanka comes to accept her differentness--her transformations--as a gift, rather than a curse.

An extraordinary tale of discovery, danger, connections and magic, THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR features delicious, first-rate storytelling. I can’t wait to read it again.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS

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