From French author and illustrator Jean-Francois Dumont comes a curious tale about a bear in the city. It’s called I Am a Bear, and it is a book that’s sure to make the reader think.
In the book, a bewildered bear wakes up in the city. He has no clue how he got there; all he knows is that this is his new home and he’s hungry. He tries to make contact with the people of the city, but his attempts are always a disaster. Old ladies hit him over the head with their umbrellas, young ladies faint, and butchers chase him to the end of the street with their big, sharp knives.
Because he is not accepted, poor Bear learns to keep quiet and keep to himself. He grows lonelier–and smellier–at his makeshift home under some cardboard boxes and old clothes. In fact, he’s sure he’s destined to be alone until a little girl reaches out. She ignores his smell and his daunting size, and tells him he looks just like a big teddy bear. This is all Bear needs to make him look at his life differently. Suddenly it’s worth it to clean up his shabby home and wash his smelly body.
I Am a Bear is a sweet and haunting book that could be about many different things. It could be a simple “fish out of water” book. It could be about a little girl’s fantasy that an abandoned teddy bear she finds on the street has come to life. Or, it might be about something deeper: like a book that explains how some people (in this case, a bear) live on the fringes of society without a friend in the world, and they don’t know why or how this happened to them. It might even be a reference to the plight of the homeless, who “wake up on the street” and cannot understand how their lives came to such a pass. They reach out, try to make human contact, but are shunned by society.
If, indeed, this book is deeper than just the story of a bear that ends up on the street—if it is a book about the homeless and the unwanted, then readers would do well to observe the little girl’s big, big heart. She ignored poor Bear’s smell, filth, and bewilderment and showed him that he did indeed mean something to someone.
This book is recommended for classroom discussions about acceptance and compassion. It may do well in churches, homeless shelters, and even private homes for those parents who aim to teach their children about love, compassion and basic human needs.
Best wishes and happy reading,