I’m most interested in writing about something when I have questions, rather than answers. It’s in that spirit that I ask the question: Is The Bear for kids?
My good friend Heidi Sopinka emailed the other day to say her 8 year old had confessed that he had read a little bit of The Bear.
Her son had noticed that the novel is dedicated to my kids, who are a similar age. He reasoned that this must mean it is for kids.
Heidi asked if, after reading the first part, did he still think it was for kids? His conclusion was no, but he was kind enough to offer up a blurb: “It is scary.”
Good for the paperback, huh?
I agree that 8 years old is probably on the young side, but one thing that has surprised me while on book tour is the number of teenage readers who have picked up the book.
I first got onto this when Orchard Park Public School invited me to come in and talk. I was expecting kids on the cusp of university, but they were in grade 7 & 8. The more I talked to them, the more I realized that they were getting a lot from the book. There is also a middle school in North Carolina who are working on plot diagrams (I am looking forward to seeing these).
From my conversations, one difference between the adult and teen readers is how they read the voice of Anna, the 5 year old narrator. An adult tends to read over her shoulder. They look into the gap between what Anna thinks is happening and what they anticipates happening. They tend to second guess her the whole way through.
A teen reader relates more directly to Anna. They read the story as a straighter survival story. They follow along with her adventure and wonder if they would make the same choices. They relate to Anna’s annoyance with her little brother, for example, rather than worry ahead about how her irritation will transfer into the level of care she gives him.
I wonder how Heidi’s 8 year old read it? That kid has a big brain. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave the book a once over and tossed it aside for something with more substantial. I fully expect to find him with a copy of Anna Karenina any day now.