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Touching Spirit Bear (Spirit Bear #1)

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  18,109 Ratings  ·  2,615 Reviews
After severely injuring Peter Driscal in an empty parking lot, troublemaker Cole Matthews is in major trouble. But instead of jail time, Cole is given an alternative: a one-year banishment to a remote Alaskan island. This program—called Circle Justice—is based on Native American traditions that provide healing for the criminal mind. To avoid serious jail time, Cole resolve ...more
Paperback, 289 pages
Published January 4th 2005 by HarperCollins (first published June 25th 1997)
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Stephen The last half of Chapter 23 describes Cole's "Dance of Anger" in some detail. It starts with screaming and ends with forgiveness. Punching a pine tree…moreThe last half of Chapter 23 describes Cole's "Dance of Anger" in some detail. It starts with screaming and ends with forgiveness. Punching a pine tree is also a significant part as well as fire-kicking. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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
Oct 22, 2008 Jess rated it it was amazing
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
Sam Kabo Ashwell
Jun 15, 2010 Sam Kabo Ashwell rated it it was ok
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
Jennifer Lavoie
I love this book. No matter how many times I read it, I enjoy it each time. Cole is such a well-written character, and all that he goes through is incredible. This was the first year I actually got to teach the book and I'm glad. The students found his experiences horrific, and we were able to have many great discussions on Cole, his situation, and the book itself.

There is a lot to be learned from this book, whether you're the bully or the victim, and I think this book should be read by all stu
Ahmad Sharabiani
Touching Spirit Bear (Spirit Bear, #1), Ben Mikaelsen
عنوان: دردسر ساز؛ نویسنده: بن میکائیلسن؛ مترجم: پروین علیپور؛ تهران، چشمه، 1390، در 306 ص؛ شابک: 9789643627829؛ موضوع: داستانهای کودکان از نویسندگان انگلیسی قرن 20 م
عنوان: راز حلقه شفا؛ نویسنده: بن میکائیلسن؛ مترجم: بهار اشراق؛ تهران، قطره، 1390، در 220 ص؛ شابک: 9786001194597؛ موضوع: داستانهای کودکان از نویسندگان انگلیسی - قرن 20 م
Feb 10, 2009 Gerson rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 08, 2015 Jasmine rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ivy Bookqueen
Dec 03, 2015 Ivy Bookqueen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fun-book
I think this book was amazing and life changing
This book taught me anger is answer to problem
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
Nate Felsmann
Dec 16, 2013 Nate Felsmann rated it it was ok
It was scary.
Nov 29, 2012 Cody rated it it was amazing

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
Kierra Mandell
Dec 02, 2015 Kierra Mandell rated it liked it
Kierra Mandell
Goodreads Review
Touching Spirit Bear

Touching Spirit Bear is about a kid named Cole who is a juvenile. He’s done many bad things, but this time he almost beat a kid until he was dead. Cole went through Circle Justice, and ended up having to be marooned on an island for a year, to heal. The first day he burned all of his supplies. Then he tried to swim to another island. He swam against the current, and was so cold he had to swim back. He was weak so he lied on the sand, when all of
Melinda Worfolk
This book is so problematic. The author makes reference to supposedly Tlingit traditions, but they're not based on anything the Tlingit actually do. They don't just work with the courts to banish young offenders to remote islands and be all, "Well, I'll be back in a few weeks to see if you're still alive! See ya, kid!" The "magical wise First Nations elder" trope is really, really problematic, especially when the author doesn't take the time to accurately represent FN culture.

The writing and ch
Apr 03, 2012 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult-lit
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
Sep 10, 2008 Fallen*63 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 16, 2013 Max rated it really liked it
It was an interesting book.
Dec 20, 2008 Marie rated it it was amazing
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
Jasper Halford
Feb 24, 2016 Jasper Halford rated it it was amazing
Cole Mathews, a boy in Minneapolis, gets himself into a lot of trouble by doing drugs and stealing. After breaking into a department store, Cole faces jail time. To avoid jail time he joins Circle Justice, a way of justice that helps the perpetrator as well as the victim. Circle Justice decides to isolate him on an island in Alaska with no other people. In this book you watch Cole struggle to try and become a better person but finally succeeding and learning many lessons along the way.

The charac
Kirsten Magbanua
Feb 04, 2016 Kirsten Magbanua rated it really liked it
Touching Spirit Bear is about a young teen named Cole Matthews, who undergoes major change. He’s sent to an island---a native american inspired punishment---to ‘heal’ and control his anger, from heavily beating a kid. And on that island he stupidly gets mauled by a bear. In this great book he changes drastically, so drastically you don’t really believe Cole Matthews’s motives and morals at the end of the book. It’s obvious that Cole Matthews is the main character. But he’s also joined with his ...more
Feb 07, 2011 Juan rated it it was amazing
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
Lacey Louwagie
I was disappointed that this book didn't have more connection with Native American spirituality/mythology, especially since I read it primarily to satisfy that item in my Into the Forest reading challenge.

The Spirit Bear did not figure into the story as much as I expected it to, either, and not much time was given to exploration of whether it was "real" or not. I liked imagining that it was a sort of actual spirit charged with ushering Cole and perhaps Peter through their healing and Cole's red
Matt Otten
Sep 19, 2014 Matt Otten rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephanie Butzer
Oct 01, 2012 Stephanie Butzer rated it it was amazing
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
Ashu Tosh
Mar 20, 2014 Ashu Tosh rated it did not like it
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
Jul 02, 2013 Moe rated it really liked it
Shelves: 7th-grade-stupid
I read this book in school as a read aloud in class. At first glance it looks like some cheesy book about some kid learning about his ancestors and finding his Zen. I guess in a way it is, but more in reality. At some parts it got sort of awkward when Cole did his animal dances. This book made me see how lucky I am to have loving parents that don't get drunk or abuse me. I can now see how much your life-style or atmosphere can change your thoughts, beliefs, and behavior. Overall, I enjoyed readi ...more
Jasper Corson
Jan 07, 2016 Jasper Corson rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Grayson Perry
May 23, 2016 Grayson Perry rated it it was amazing
I like this book because it teaches you to forgive. It also teaches you that sometimes it is hard to control your anger.
Felipe Chapula
Mar 22, 2017 Felipe Chapula rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew Modugno
Nov 11, 2011 Andrew Modugno rated it really liked it
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
Alexa Garay
Oct 06, 2016 Alexa Garay rated it did not like it
I didn't like it. It started out really slow.
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Touching Spirit Bear: Are people capable of change? 14 16 Dec 07, 2016 01:27PM  
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Lucy-nicole 8 11 Feb 09, 2015 07:11PM  
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Share This Book

“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” 9 likes
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