cover image The Girl Who Lived with the Bears

The Girl Who Lived with the Bears

Barbara Diamond Goldin. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200684-6

In this Native American myth from the Pacific Northwest, a girl's abduction by bears teaches her and her people respect for animals. While picking berries, the chief's spoiled daughter complains bitterly of the bears who have trampled her woodland paths into mud. Soon, two young men appear, ostensibly to help her carry her basket, but they lead her away to an unfamiliar village. There, she is imprisoned by the bear people, who lead double lives as beasts and as humans. A marriage is arranged between the girl and one of her captors, and in time she grows to love her mate and his ways. When she is finally returned to her home, it is with divided emotions and increased understanding of the bond between people and the natural world. Details of Native American life--the contents of a wedding feast, the process of drying salmon--subtly ground the fantasy elements. An intriguing final note reveals different versions of this tale, affording a personal glimpse into the choices Goldin (Coyote and the Fire Stick) faced in her retelling. Plewe's debut illustrations range from ethereal air-brushed suggestions of spirits in clouds and smoke to the warm, earthy textures of acrylic paints in landscape and bear fur. A graceful and poignant retelling. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)