I Am a Bear

Jean-François Dumont. Eerdmans, $16 (34p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5447-6

In a more somber allegory than his previous books, Dumont (The Sheep Go on Strike) meditates on homelessness, as seen from the perspective of a hulking brown bear in a human city. “I don’t know how I got here,” the bear begins. “All I know is that one morning I woke up here, on this street, and I haven’t left it since.” Wearing a tattered coat, scarf, and hat, the bear sits against a brick wall in a shelter of cardboard boxes and newspapers. Encounters with passersby don’t go well—a doorman calls the police, and a butcher chases the bear with a knife. The city’s bright colors only heighten the bear’s loneliness and invisibility, and Dumont hits at human prejudice from multiple angles, whether it’s the plentitude of food the bear sees in shop windows or the way citizens wrinkle their noses as they walk past. A girl who sees worth in the bear offers a moment of brightness, though Dumont resists a tidy happy ending. As a literal vision of the way society often dehumanizes the homeless, it’s sure to be a conversation starter. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)