I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson Book Review

I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Release Date: September 9, 2014

A young girl befriends a bear in the zoo. He comes from far, far away from the Land of Bears, where the food is sweet and the land is cast. It is a beautiful place where the rivers are like bathtubs and naps last for months. And he can never return because his new home is the zoo. Since the little girl cannot return him to his home, she listens carefully and imagines a world of freedom.

This is one of the quietest simplest books I have read this year and it completely caught me off guard. The little girl imagines the life of a polar bear, imagining the trails he walked on, rivers he swam in, and breakfasts that are sweet.Then it is revealed that the bear is in a zoo and the little girl visits him. In the end, the little girl doesn't magically free this polar bear, but she does free her pet bird.

The idea of zoos and the capturing of animals has been debated for decades and this book definitely has an opinion, but it not heavy handed. No one is blamed, no one thing is a cause, the author is simply asking her young readers to imagine where these animals are from. In this day and age, where so many animals are endangered it is hard not to argue that some of these animals are safer in their simulated environments, but others would disagree. This story reminds me of our local zoo where the polar bear exhibit just reopened. Although the exhibit is nice enough, I always imagined how miserable those polar bears are in our North Carolina summer. Do they miss the cold and snow? I know I do.

This is the NC Zoo's polar bear, Patches: