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Touching Spirit Bear


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About the Author

Ben Mikaelsen is the winner of the International Reading Association Award and the Western Writers of America Spur Award. His novels have been nominated for and won many state reader's choice awards. These novels include Red Midnight, Rescue Josh McGuire, Sparrow Hawk Red, Stranded, Countdown, Petey, and Tree Girl. Ben's articles and photos appear in numerous magazines around the world. Ben lives near Bozeman, Montana, with his 700-pound black bear, Buffy.


Gr 5-8-In Ben Mikaelsen's novel (HarperCollins, 2001), Cole Matthews is a teenager who has always been in trouble, and has had so many "last chances" that he figures he knows how to work the juvenile justice system. When he severely beats another boy, however, his probation officer suggests that he try something called "Circle Justice," a Native American tradition that attempts to heal the victim, the offender, and the community. The Circle decides that Cole should be banished for a year to an island off the coast of Alaska. He goes along because the alternative is jail, and because he figures he can get off the island after all, he's a strong swimmer. Cole is an angry teen who blames everyone else for his troubles his alcoholic parents, his wimpy victim, the "system." Alone on the island, he promptly burns his shelter and supplies. He is mauled by a large white "spirit bear," and nearly dies before he is rescued. This experience, and the subsequent six-month hospitalization, cause a turnaround in Cole's life. The only trouble is, can he convince everyone else that he has really changed and isn't still just trying to work the system? Lee Tergesen brings just the right tone to Cole's voice an angry kid who is trying to figure things out, but still sometimes loses control. This is an excellent recording of a novel that will appeal both to fans of adventure tales and to those who like problem novels.-Sarah Flowers, Santa Clara County Library, Morgan Hill, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"Mikaelsen's portrayal of this angry, manipulative, damaged teen is dead on." -- School Library Journal (starred review) "[Cole's] solitary life on the island is just the ticket for Paulsen fans, who will appreciate the survival story." -- The Bulletin "Mikaelsen paints a realistic portrait of an unlikable young punk." -- Kirkus Reviews "An excellent companion to Gary Paulsen's Hatchet and Allan Eckert's Incident at Hawk's Hill." -- ALA Booklist "[Cole's story] will fascinate young and old, and have everyone waiting for the sequel." -- Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

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