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Touching Spirit Bear (Spirit Bear #1)

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  11,865 ratings  ·  1,785 reviews
Within Cole Matthews lie anger, rage and hate. Cole has been stealing and fighting for years. This time he caught Peter Driscal in the parking lot and smashed his head against the sidewalk. Now, Peter may have permanent brain damage and Cole is in the biggest trouble of his life.

Cole is offered Circle Justice: a system based on Native American traditions that attempts to p...more
Paperback, 289 pages
Published January 4th 2005 by HarperTeen (first published June 25th 1997)
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if we were just judging the first half of this book, the rating would be higher. the second half of this book really just irritated me, and made me wary of reading the sequel, which i have already purchased.


the first half is about an angry kid, taking out his rage on other people. he reminded me of that kid from that svu episode with luke perry and sara gilbert who was all hyperactive lunatic raaaar-child. but this kid's rage caused him to beat another boy so severely, he has irreparable b...more
Oct 22, 2008 Jess rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 5th grade and up
Shelves: 6th-grade-books
This is a phenomenal book. Through out the year almost all of my kids read it and usually in a day or two. The story tells of a boy, Cole, who has an extremely misguided life due to his family situation. After beating a kid close to death he is sent to live on an island by himself for a year trying to heal his anger. This was his only alternative to going to jail. The book is intense and a bit graphic in Chapter 8 when he encounters a spirit bear. The books sheds great light into the healing pro...more
I love this book! Theres a lot you can learn from it. Although I admit theres a lot of wierd things in it. but it helped me realize it was important to control my temper. This is a book that people with anger problems should read.
Feb 09, 2009 Greg added it
Shelves: native-americans
Cole Matthews is an angry teen who has been caught stealing and fighting for years. One day Cole runs into a fellow classmate, Peter, and fights him. During this fight Cole smashes Peter's head into the sidewalk and causes permanent brain damage. Instead of jail time or being send to a special home, Cole is offered Circle Justice: a system based on Native American traditions that attempts to provide healing for the criminal offender. Cole plays along with the sentence. It is only after he gets m...more

This book is pretty good so far it is about a boy named cole who is mad at the world and blames everything on everyone else
Sam Kabo Ashwell
Cole, a very generic juvenile delinquent from a very generic abusive family, is generically filled with rage and lies; he appears on course for a life perpetually in and out of prison, but then he gets drawn into the alternative Circle Justice system. Somehow this gets him shipped out to a remote island in Southeast Alaska to be outdoorsy for a year, mostly alone but occasionally visited by Tlingit mentors who disgorge a steady stream of tough love and folksy wisdom. Cole screws up immediately,...more
Matt Otten
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ashu Tosh
I find this book not interesting While the first part of the book was fine; the second half of the book made no realistic sense. The reason I think this is because Cole (the main character) got so mortally injured and still he only received a long-term affect on his arm. This makes no sense because earlier in the book, his pelvis was broken from the fight with the bear.

Also no matter how nice people are; it was not possible for anyone to be like Garvey. For one thing he was told to be a wise in...more
It was an interesting book.
“Touching Spirit Bear” was one of the books I got off of the “Books to Avoid” list on I really enjoyed this book when I read it to one of my 6th graders last year. He was struggling with anger and behavior issues. I read this book to him (since he was at a 3rd grade reading level). He really enjoyed the book. I do not think the book changed him in any significant way, except that he finally enjoyed a book for the first time in his life. I think it was because he could relate to the m...more
Touching Spirit Bear Review

Mikaelsen, B. (2001). Touching Spirit Bear. New York: Harper Trophy.

Why the book was chosen
I liked the title, Touching Spirit Bear; it got my attention. On the cover it states, "Can a
mythical bear help a boy beyond human reach?" I am interested in counseling as a profession;
the cover sounded like this session was going to be a challenge. I sure would like to know how a
"spirit bear" helped a boy with his troubles.

Summary/Overview of the book
Cole Matthews was a typical...more
Ben Mikaelsen's Touching Spirit Bear touched my heart.

First of all, everything in Cole Matthews life is a circle. At the age of fifteen he is already a juvenile delinquent. His parents are strong alcoholics and his dad is a child molester. He hurts Cole almost every night. One day, Cole has enough and takes his anger out on poor Peter Driscal. He takes his head and smashes it into the sidewalk.

Next, for his punishment, he goes to an island in Alaska and has to stay for a year. Cole tries to esca...more
I was disappointed by Ben Mikaelson's Touching Spirit Bear. While I liked some features such as a male protagonist and the idea of healing rather than punishing, on the whole I was let down. 30 pages of Cole lying helpless in the Alaskan wilderness when he should have died from starvation (due to his broken body and lack of nourishment before hand,) hypothermia, or loss of blood made for a slow-moving, unrealistic plot. Also, some characters, such as Edwin and Garvey were not well developed. I o...more
I’ll admit that I completely judged this book by on its cover. I was dreading that this would be the “typical” young adult novel I was dreading—the one that included mystical nature and a teenager with angst. It turns out that Touching Spirit Bear was, in the most basic sense, those fears in paperback.

But I liked it.

I enjoyed Cole’s character from the beginning because I saw a lot of myself (at his age) in him—not necessarily the criminal or domestic abuse side but his limited understanding of w...more
Oct 25, 2008 Fallen*63 rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Fallen*63 by: My teacher
Touching Spirit Bear is about a juvenile delinquent named Cole Matthews. He has been stealing and lying for years, but everyone has had it out of hm when he beats Peter Driscal's skull into the sidewalk for ratting out on him. Peter then has speech and coordination issues. Cole is given a chance in "Circle Justice" in which he lives in isolation on an Alaskan island for one year. At first, he did this only to avoid jail. He even tries to escape the island, but fails. He is later mauled by a whit...more
Touching Spirit Bear is the story of Cole Matthews as he tries to overcome his anger at the world. Cole is a juvenile delinquent who is at the point where he could be tried as an adult. His parole officer suggests he lives on a remote island in Alaska for a year so he can work out his anger and hatred in a place where he can't hurt anyone. After only a few days on the island Cole is mauled by the Spirit Bear; after he has healed enough and is allowed to return to the island Cole begins a huge tr...more
This book offers powerful life lessons as a troubled teen struggles to learn how to manage his anger, accept responsibility and change the direction of his life. Cole Matthews finds himself banished to an Alaskan island as an alternative to jail time when he is invited to participate in a Native American tradition called Circle Justice. Through multiple encounters with the Spirit Bear, a near death mauling by the Spirit Bear and the support of his sponsors, Cole begins his journey toward healing...more
An amazing story of survival and spirituality, this story inspired me and remained with me after it was over.

Cole is a severely troubled teen, locked in an abusive family situation. He deals with his own anger and helplessness by lashing out. But one day he goes too far, nearly killing one of his schoolmates in a fit of rage. Sent to a juvenile facility, Cole is presented with two choices...jail, or a healing program that involves spending three months on an isolated Alaskan island. Reluctantly,...more
Andrew Modugno
Andrew Modugno Mr.Ambrose
Touching Spirit Bear
Cole has a choice, got to jail or be sentenced to a year alone on a remote island in Alaska after permanently damaging Peter Driscal’s brain after assaulting him. While he is on this island he learns a lot about himself and becomes a better person despite his troubles back home. It is a great story how Cole changes with the help of some people and nature, and the acceptance of Circle Justice, a system based off of Native Americans that attemp...more
Stephanie Butzer
This book was very good! I liked how detailed the book was. Cole was a bad kid. He would beat up other kids if they even looked at him funny. He is a 15 year old boy that just cannot get passed, is past. For almost killing a boy at his school, Cole was sent to an Island where he had only a small hut. He burnt that down within a matter of five minutes being on the Island. While trying to escape, the tide over powers Cole, making him swim back to the Island. Cole saw the spirit bear a few times....more
Ren Dexter
This is a story of healing and forgiveness. It follows a boy named Cole who has grown up in an abusive home. This leads Cole to make a long string of terrible choices that end in him beating Paul nearly to death. As a way to avoid jail time Cole agrees to participate in the Circle Justice which exiles him to an island in Alaska. Once there Cole torches his supplies and attempts to swim to freedom but ends up with nothing and nearly dead from being mauled by a "spirit bear". Cole is rescued but t...more
Nice job, Ben Mikaelsen. This was a really good book. It wasn't a can't-put-it-down type of book, but I really liked it. It paid off in its overall message. The character is a juvenile delinquent with an abusive father and has had a run-in with the law. Under the wing of the Circle Justice group, he is banished to an island for a year to pay for his crime.

This book taught me a lot about anger. I loved the Native American wisdom that was so prevalent in the book. I learned a lot about the charact...more
Totally a guy book! And so worth your time, guy or girl. Based on the Justice Circles performed by the natives in Alaska, this story involves a young man named Cole. His life is headed south when he violently beats up another young man in a brutal manner. His punishment is bordering a prison or jail sentence when his social worker decides to offer him a chance at redemption... he must be banished to an island for a year and learn to understand himself, others, and the world around him. In his ef...more
Lilly Anne
Mar 06, 2011 Lilly Anne rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who read Gary Paulsen books.
I have to say, this book was okay. It was well written and everything but...I'm just not into these kind of stories. It just seemed too cheesy for me, and bad people going good and rebuilding their life and soul is just kinda boring - Not that that's a bad thing, of course, good for him! - but I just couldn't click with the character.

Have you ever been reading something and just kinda want your character to die? Because I was actually looking forward to Cole dying or commiting suicide at some p...more
Courtney Peterson
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen is about a fifteen year old boy named Cole Matthews. Cole gets into trouble with the law for viciously attacking another boy, Peter Driscal. Cole is given two choices--he can go to jail or he can apply for Circle Justice, a Native American form of justice that focuses on healing so that both parties involved can move forward. Cole agrees to go through Circle Justice to avoid jail, and is sent to live in solitude on an island near southeast Alaska. On his fir...more
Jillian Campbell
Summary: Cole is a 15 year old troublemaker. He is a criminal and when a boy named Peter tells on him, he beats that kid almost to death. Instead of going to jail or juvenile detention center, Cole chooses to undergo the Circle of Justice and they sentence him to isolation for a year. Cole, when he gets there, burns down the shelter and provokes a mysterious white bear. The bear attacks him back and then Cole almost dies. He wakes up after a storm in the hospital and then goes back to the island...more
Sydney Cornwall
Touching Spirit Bear is about Cole, a kid with horrible anger problems, and the consequences that he faces because of it. He as grown up as an abused child, and as a result, he can't seem to take responsibility for himself and his actions. He ends up beating a kid's head on the sidewalk, causing brain damage, and this leads him to a decision: jail time or exile on a remote island for a year. He picks the latter, and the first couple days he's on the island, he gets brutally mauled by the 'spirit...more
Adrian Bueno
At the beginning of the novel, Cole Matthews, a fifteen-year-old juvenile delinquent from Minneapolis, Minnesota, arrives on a barren island near the city of Drake in Southeastern Alaska in handcuffs. As you can already tell from this one sentence Cole needs no introduction of who he is and what he represents. Cole's attitude and troubling past with the law hasn't been the best streak. But his attitude with violence and misbehaving suddenly went to far as he beat one of his classmates to pure s...more
This book came to my attention because it had won an award and been banned. I just finished it, and, like most banned books, it is beautiful and amazing, raw with emotion. A powerful story about an angry and troubled boy who slowly comes to find healing on a deserted island through nature and discovering his own spirit in the wilderness via Native tradition of Circle Justice. A truly wonderful story, and I look forward to the sequel.
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“He turned to Edwin. "You know, the stuff you just told me makes more sense than all the weird things the counselors and psychologist have told me in school and at the detention center."

Edwin tapped Cole's shoulder with the broken stick. "That's because those people still think you can get rid of the left end of the stick.”
“all my parents do is drink. They hate me. Do you know what it's like waking up every morning knowing you're not good enough? there are only two things wrong with me-everything I do and everything I say. They'll never be happy until I'm dead” 6 likes
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