Soldier Bear
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Soldier Bear

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  245 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Winner of the 2012 Batchelder Award Based on a real series of events that happened during World War II, Soldier Bear tells the story of an orphaned bear cub adopted by a group of Polish soldiers in Iran. The soldiers raise the bear and eventually enlist him as a soldier to ensure that he stays with the company. He travels with them from Iran to Italy, and then on to Scotla...more
Hardcover, 158 pages
Published February 2nd 2011 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (first published 2008)
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Many writers have made it clear just how hellish war is, and how hard it is to hold onto the shreds of humanity that exist in the hearts of soldiers during conflict. Based on actual events that occurred during WWII, this story describes how a group of Polish soldiers stationed in Iran adopt a Syrian brown bear cub who becomes the mascot and symbol of the transport company of the 2nd Polish Corps. As the cub grows to become more than six feet tall, he and the other animals that accompany the troo...more
What an amazing true story! And you just couldn’t ask for a better read-aloud book to share with your 3rd or 4th grader who is ready for that transition to stories with a little difficult material. Mostly, this book is pure fun. But one chapter (ch. 14) addresses--very tactfully and responsibly--the realities of war. Another (ch. 19) deals with the sad fate of one of the book’s four animal characters. My daughter went from sheer delight, to convincing herself not to cry, and then to declaring th...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I really enjoyed this unusual novel, though it hardly seemed like a children's book, as the characters were all Polish soldiers and animals. Translated from the Dutch, this story based on true events is about a group of Polish soldiers captured by the Russians in World War II and sent to join the British in Iran. While in the desert one day, the group encounters a young boy with a baby bear in a sack, which they obtain by trading food for the bear. They keep it as a pet and mascot, and the bear...more
Margo Tanenbaum
n this charming novel for children, Dutch author Bibi Dumon Tak fictionalizes the true story of an orphaned Syrian brown bear cub who's adopted by a group of Polish soldiers during World War II, eventually becoming the unit's beloved mascot. The mischievous bear cub was named Voytek (smiling warrior) by the soldiers. As the soldiers journeyed through Iran and Iraq on their way to their assignment in Palestine to join their Brtish allies, even the officers softened at the adorable teddy bear of a...more
Based on real events is this imagined account of a bear that accompanied five Polish soldiers who traveled from their beloved Poland to the British Isles then to the middle east, where they found a bear cub in the middle of a desert, finally to Italy, then to Scotland, and home. The adventures also involve two dogs and a monkey-a total menagerie that traveled with these men. In the earlier parts of the story, they had to gain permission to keep the animals, but soon, they endeared themselves to...more
Mariah Smith
Voytek is the kind of pet any child would love to imagine. He is so much more delightful because this is based on a true story --he really was a member of an allied military division and he truly made the war more "bearable," even enjoyable for the soldiers who befriended him and all others who encountered him. This book evokes a lot more laughter than tears. It also includes interesting historical context, including maps of WWII regions and a simple, "kid-speak" version of Poland's unique predi...more
Kimberly Wees
Audience: 4th to 8th grade students study WWII history.

Appeal: This is a great and easy read for students interested in WWII. The story is about a bear who gets bought and is used for work. There is talk about the history of WWII but not in too much detail that it's overbearing. It focuses more on the importance of having a friend and companion in times of trouble and strife. It talks about getting through things together and that having somebody with you is all you need in life.

Batchelder Awa...more
Name two things that were Voytec’s favorite things to consume? Peter always tells the other soldiers that Voytec would prefer to have cigarettes and beer.

What examples can you find to support the fact that Kaska changed when she gave birth? Before she gave birth to her baby, she always pulled on Voytec's ears and threw stuff at his head and Voytec would hide from her. After she gave birth, she was nice to Voytec. She would run up and show Voytec her new baby, she didn't throw things at Voytec an...more
Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak (2012 Batchelder Award Winner)
This is the delightful true story of soldiers with the 2nd Polish Corps, who while working with the British troops during WW II, bought a bear cub from a hungry child. Voytek was a Syrian brown bear who served with the Polish Army (under the British) for over 5 years. Voytek was given the rank of Private by one of the Commanding Officers who was also charmed by the mischievous bear. The story continues to tell how Voytek was raised fro...more
Soldier Bear does what the Voytek does for the soldiers - lightens, appropriately, a hard time in our history. The voice of the story is slightly younger than the story itself perhaps, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will recommend it for purchase for our library. It also provides a non-American, tho pro-American, look at WWII balancing the harshness of war with the lightness of a bear's unusual role in wartime.
Thank goodness for the Batchelder Award, without which I probably would have never heard of this book, much less picked it up. This is a fabulous story, and based on the true story of the bear who was enlisted in the Polish army. I thought it showed how hard war can be but how something to care for and love (the adorable and rambunctious bear) helped these soldiers make it from day to day. It is a beautiful story.
Bloom's Taxonomy
1) Remember- Are you able to name at least three main characters, as well as one villain within the book, Soldier Bear?
2) Understand- Can you give an example of why Peter was dubbed Voytek's "new mother"?
3)Apply- Relate the situation where the soldiers first find the bear cub and wanted to take care of it to a similar situation you have experienced in your life.
4) Analyze- Identify at least three different ways that the bear saved or contributed to the 2nd polish corps?
5) Evaluat...more
I found Soldier Bear to be a quick, engaging read based on the true story of a bear soldier in a Polish contingent during World War II. I think that children would enjoy this read because of the animals in it, not just Voytek, the "soldier bear," but also the various animals that the Polish transport company had with them, including two dogs (one of whom thought he was a horse) and a sassy monkey. Soldier Bear would be an interesting introduction/early World War II book for younger readers, it f...more
Erin Reilly-Sanders
Somehow, this story makes me very uncomfortable. I think it has to do with with the presence of animals in the story. It just makes it so easy to anthropomorphize which really shouldn't happen in a realistic story. The audience is definitely younger children than most historical fiction or World War II novels. Consequently, it makes sense to avoid some of the realistic problems of having a bear in a war camp- I'm sure that there were occasionally war injuries and bears eat quite a lot, further d...more
Soldier Bear is a story based on a historical event. A unit of the Polish army takes in a bear cub, they name Voytek, who becomes completely integrated in their unit. The emblem of the transport company is changed to a picture of a bear holding artillery shell. Voytek provides friendship and comfort for the soldiers facing the difficulties of war. Much needed comic relief is provided by Voytek as he gets into all sorts of "trouble" throughout the book.
This book does a good job telling about a re...more
Soldier Bear is the tale of Polish soldiers in WWII who adopt a baby bear. The soldiers had been prisoners in Russia; when they were released the went to the Middle East as a transport company. One day they came across a young boy with a bear cub in a sack. They traded food for the cub and he became Private Voytek, their mascot. The soldiers raised Voytek and the entire company came to love him. Voytek was almost human in the way he acted. He helped the soldiers carry things and always wanted to...more
Soldier Bear chronicles the adventures of five Polish soldiers, some of whom were friends before the war, before Poland was invaded by the Germans and the Russians, and others of whom become friends once they escape from Poland to Iran to fight with the British. It's a different view of World War II than most stories, which tend to be focused on the action in western Europe. In fact, it's a different view of war in general in that the story largely centers on a bear that the five friends adopt w...more
Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak illustrated by Philip Hopman, tells the story of an orphaned bear cub, named Voytek, adopted by a group of Polish soldiers in Iran, who raise him and travel with him throughout WWII.

Polish soldiers raise the bear cub and eventually enlist him as a soldier to ensure that he stays with their company. Traveling with them from Iran to Italy to Scotland, Voytek's mischevious antics both annoy and entertain them, providing distractions from the horror of WWII. Voytek als...more
Alex Baugh
When a group of five Polish men end up together in British army base in Iran after being released from a Russian prison in 1942, they quickly become part of the 22nd Transport Company. One of their assignment is the task of transporting large amounts of artillery ammunition from Iran to a larger British base in Palestine. On their very first trip, they encounter a young boy en route dragging a large moving sack. Inside is a small baby bear, a Syrian brown bear whose mother either abandoned it or...more
Barb Middleton
Lighthearted World War II stories are hard to come by. The fact that the story is true makes it even more memorable. A group of Polish soldiers find a cub and raise it at a military camp where its shenanigans and childlike behavior make everyone fall in love with him. Voytek, as he is called, not only covers his eyes with his paws when in trouble but rocks back and forth. When someone is sad, Voytek comforts them. When soldiers need cheering up, he does handstands or drinks beer and eats lit cig...more
Dec 04, 2012 Ed added it
Tak, B.D. (2012). Soldier bear. (Ill. by P. Hopman). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 147 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8028-5375-2. (Hardcover); $13.00.

Private Voytek carried his artillery shell carefully to the next soldier in line to whom he passed it and then hurried back to get the next heavy shell. Voytek repeated this artillery transport until the trucks were unloaded. After working, Voytek enjoyed a cigarette or a beer. Many of us would have been more inclined to give Voytek a raw s...more
Billy Mathis
This book tells the story of a group of Polish soldiers who trade a bunch of miscellaneous items for a baby bear cub who they raise and take with them into World War II to fight. This novel tells one of the many stories within the scope of World War II that works out the relationship between some Polish soldiers and the bear cub they raised to love. Through a series of trials, such as bomb carrying, combat and spies, the bear and his companion soldiers fight through the crazy ordeals of World wa...more
Kristi Bernard
A bear, a very smart bear, wonders away from his sleeping master into a camp. He was spotted in the women's quarters of a Polish signals unit. Discovered by Peter, his master and a new friend Stanislav. The story begins, during World War II. Russia and Poland are in a battle and with Germany invading so many countries, Poland and Russia decided they would join the war against Germany. Peter and Stanislav along with two others were assigned to take a truck load of equipment to Palestine. On the w...more
A chance meeting of five Polish soldiers and a bear cub make for a wonderful novel of friendship in wartime. While displaced during World War II, the five friends make a pact to keep the bear, even thought all his antics within the confines of base camp. In return, the bear, named Voytek, gave the soldiers to cling to as well. Voytek proves to be not only a comfort for the men so far away from home, but useful as well helping to load ammunition into the transport trucks.

There are many stories f...more
April Helms
A sweet story, good for older grade school and middle school (could be used for second grade and up, but I'd recommend parents and teachers read along with younger children; there are one, maybe two chapters younger and more sensitive readers may find upsetting). This is based on the true story of Voytek, a bear who is adopted by a group of Polish soldiers as a cub. Voytek, along with the other animal mascots, causes his share of trouble in the unit -- hogging the shower water, and mooching for...more
Amber Graves
The Soldier Bear is a great book with a unique angle on World War II. It is through the eyes of Polish soldiers who were caught off guard by Russia and Germany’s invasion. Poland basically turned nonexistent after the invasion. There was a “peace” border separated the country so Russia and Germany knew which side was theirs. Peter, Lolek, and Stanislav were put to work in Poland but escaped the Russians and crossed the Iranian border where they would be safe. From there they decided they wanted...more
For some reason, this book, based on real events, reminded me of the Don Camillo books by Giovanni Guareschi, which I read as a young teen. (They were in my uncle's old room in my grandmother's house while we were on vacation, and I had run out of other material. I read a bunch of them, and remember them very fondly.) Maybe it's the European setting and sophisticated sensibility: the soldiers swear, people (not main characters) die, and Voytek, the bear, drinks beer and eats lit cigarettes as tr...more
Book #67 Read in 2012
Soldier Bear (YA) by Bibi Dumon Tak

This book was based on the true story of a bear cub, adopted by Polish soldiers during World War II, and his place in their patroon. The soldiers decide that the bear, named Voytek, is their mascot and they bring them along with him--even though he steals their Christmas dinner, even though he begs for food, even though he takes up most of the bed. Voytek also brings them joy, love and a connection that they desperately need in a horrific t...more
Clare Wojda
1. Genre - International Literature
2. Awards - Batchelder Award
3. Grade Level - 3-4
4. We would have a brief discussion of this time period before reading "Soldier Bear" just to give my students a context for the story. We would talk about the actual history of the battle of Monte Cassino and how Wojtek, the Syrian bear, helped the Polish soldiers carry ammunition. We would have a discussion about our own pets and what they do that we love. Students would have a chance to bring their pets to scho...more
Any animal lover will enjoy the charming and comedic adventures of a bear named Voytek who was literally accept into a Polish military troop. The book starts out lighthearted as the bonds between the bear and the soldiers quickly formed. As to be expected the bear gets into many situations of a mischievous manner. Many friendships between man and animal were forged when collections of allied military groups gather at large camps. A dog-riding monkey loves to terrorize Voytek making for hilarious...more
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