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The Biggest Bear

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  3,625 Ratings  ·  275 Reviews
The Biggest Bear
Hardcover, 88 pages
Published June 1st 1952 by Houghton Mifflin
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Mar 21, 2017 Mischenko rated it it was amazing
The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward is a children's picture book about a boy named Johnny Orchard. Johnny embarks on a journey to find a bearskin for the family barn and comes home with an unexpected friend.

The book is full of black and white, realistic illustrations. We loved the adventure and emotion.

Follow along in this exciting and engaging story to see what Johnny will do with his new found joy as time changes everything.

The most depressing Caldecott winner I've come across so far, and an excellent illustration of how times change. Young Johnny sets out to shoot a bear, as it is embarrassing that his farm is the only one in town without a bearskin tacked up on the wall of the barn. He finds a baby bear and ends up making it a pet, but it turns out that bears don't make great pets (surprise?). He tries to turn it loose in the woods, but it keeps coming back home. So, sadly, he goes out to shoot it. But along the ...more
The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward is the Caldecott Medal winning story from 1952 of Johnny Orchard, a boy living in a rural farm area who is embarrassed that his family has no bearskin tacked to their barn. He goes out to shot a bear, but instead finds a cub he brings home. The cub grows into a huge bear that is always hungry and gets into neighbors food supplies.

After trying repeatedly to leave the bear in the wild. Johnny is told by his father to take the bear out and kill it. Instead, the bear d
Jun 02, 2013 Hans rated it really liked it
I remember this book from when I was a kid and found a copy that I passed on to my niece. Reading it with her was a little bit of a mind warp though. This is a perfect example of a beautiful book that has not aged well. We live in a time when very few people live on farms. The larger urban centers typically don't go for hunting...except in the locavore/Michael Pollan approach.

So, Ward gives us perfectly crafted illustrations that bring us back to a different world, but we can't wrap our brains
Jun 28, 2012 Samantha rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this story, especially once the bear cub comes home and is a family pet of sorts. I was so upset by this book's ending. The bear grows large and becomes a nuisance so the only the solution is to shoot him? When shooting him is just too hard to do you trick him into a trap and send him off to the zoo? No way! Not a good story here. Illustrations are in black and white and appear in full pages that mirror text. They are fairly realistic and well done, but this story was not for me ...more
Oct 07, 2010 N_hannahkang rated it did not like it
Shelves: picture-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 20, 2013 Tatiana rated it did not like it
I suppose it would be a good story to read to children with NRA-loving parents.
Oct 01, 2014 Kathryn rated it liked it
So hard to rate. The illustrations are five stars. The story made me sad and uncomfortable. I would not read this to most children today--especially not animal-lovers or other sensitive readers.

Review below contains SPOILERS:

I'm really not sure what to make of The Biggest Bear. Like many of these early Caldecotts, it is a product of its time, and while today the idea of boys going around in the woods with guns hunting bears is probably uncomfortable, if not repugnant, to many of us I realize tha
Mar 22, 2015 Kristy rated it really liked it
Set in Canada in the early 20th century, this story is about a bear problem. Specifically, young Johnny Orchard's bear problem.

I won't give away the plot, but I will gush over the illustrations. Lynd Ward won the Caldecott Medal for The Biggest Bear in 1953. His illustrations are completely realistic yet unique. Each animal on every page shows a distinct but unostentatious emotion that makes me laugh out loud but still leaves the animals' faces looking lifelike. The same can be said for the hum
Tory Haberman
Sep 19, 2014 Tory Haberman rated it really liked it
The Biggest Bear written and illustrated by Lynd Ward is quite a suspenseful, light-hearted read. It has a very warm-hearted ending, but there were times of doubt and worries that were foreshadowed throughout the book. Johnny, a young boy whose family owns an apple orchard became jealous of all the other people’s barns in the valley that had a bearskin nailed to their barn. Johnny's barn never did and he was determined to go into the woods and find the biggest bearskin in the whole valley. Howev ...more
Nov 28, 2014 Jake rated it really liked it
In this story written by Lynd Ward, young Johnny brings home a tiny bear cub from the woods. He feeds him maple sugar and anything else he wants to eat. Soon, the bear began to grow and grow and ate everything in sight. Johnny's mother decided they needed to get rid of the bear. So, Johnny walked him south and left him in the forest. But, the bear came back. Then he walked him north and left him. But, the bear came back. He even took a boat and brought the bear to an island. But, the bear still ...more
Rhonda Lee
Sep 29, 2014 Rhonda Lee rated it really liked it
The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward will take you back to a setting of no such thing as technology. The story quickly gains readers attention by the cover itself. This black and white illustrated book will have young readers entertained by a little boy who discovers a baby bear deep in the woods and creates a close bond. The little boy raises the bear and eventually finds out the bear eats way too much as it begins to get bigger and bigger. As his family and neighbors complain about the bears height a ...more
Book Concierge
Ward won the Caldecott for the detailed, sepia-toned, drawings that accompany this story.

Johnny Orchard lives on a farm at the far end of the valley, near a big woods. Whenever he walks down the road he notices that other barns have bear skins drying on their walls; he’s embarrassed that his family’s barn doesn’t have a bear skin. So he heads into the woods one day, with his rifle, determined to get the biggest bear.

What he finds, though is an orphaned bear cub, which he befriends with a piece
Kylie Hodgson
Sep 23, 2014 Kylie Hodgson rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The overall feel of the book catches the reader emotionally and draws them in. The book starts off as a background story about the characters and where they are living. By referencing the illustrations we can tell that the setting is probably based in the 1950's on a countryside. The main character's family makes maple and the neighboring families enjoy killing game and proudly display it in their homes. One day the main character goes out to prove to the neighbors th ...more
Danie Plott
Sep 17, 2014 Danie Plott rated it really liked it
Everyone in the valley has a big bearskin nailed up to dry except for Johnny Orchard. Johnny Orchard is jealous and claims to shoot his own bear and have the biggest bearskin around, and he ventures into the woods. He does come out with a bear all right, a little baby bear that likes maple sugar… and everything else for that matter! Johnny raises the little bear until it becomes a BIG bear, eating everything in sight. This becomes a problem for the people in town and Johnny must figure out how t ...more
Mar 22, 2016 Wilmarie rated it liked it
In my honest opinion, I do not visualize this book as a children’s book. I mean, the boy first handles a shotgun alone in the woods. Then he takes a wild animal as a pet, not on the farm, but inside the house. Next he sets out to abandon his pet, and when said pet keeps finding his way home, sets out to kill it. Lastly, the animal is sent to the zoo, where animals never live as they should in their own habitats. So for me this is not really the best book to read to a child.
This book could make a
Aug 10, 2009 Jim rated it did not like it
Shelves: caldecott-medal
ugly book.
little johnny is jealous that all the other kids daddys have killed a bear. not johnny's, he daddy is a wimp, a milktoast, not a real man. one day johnny is in the forest and finds a bear cub, feeds it and takes it home. daddy (probably a vegan and belongs to peta) lets johnny keep and raise it. the baby bear grows up, steals food, raids the other farms and is generally uncivilized. so all the other daddys get together and tell johnny he needs to take the bear into the woods and blow i
Feb 25, 2015 Isa rated it it was amazing
The Biggest Bear is about a boy named Johnny Orchard who wanted a bear pelt just like his neighbors. So Johnny went to find the biggest bear in the valley, but instead he comes home with bear cub he befriended in the woods. As Johnny’s bear grows up it starts to become a problem with his family and neighbors. Johnny tries three times to get rid of the bear but each time the bear follows him home. This book has a very clever ending and a lot of detailed fun illustrations.

The theme in this book i
David Korsak
This book is about a boy who goes hunting for a bear skin to bring back for his family’s barn. What happens next is anything from what the boy was expecting. The only bear he could find was a cub and the cub was starving, so the boy gave him some food. He then decides to take the bear home and keep him as a pet, but his parents have concerns. In the end the boy gets to keep the bear and the bear eventually grows up to be one of the biggest bears around. In the end of the story the bear gets capt ...more
Sami Wilson
Apr 27, 2014 Sami Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
I did not mind the black and white illustrations but I think that a little color would have been fine throughout the book. I thought that the Illustrator did a fantastic job drawing a visual aid for the story line. I was torn when the young boy kept walking the bear away from the village and the next morning the bear was back. I was sad when the young boy went marching into the woods with his gun and the bear. The ending was a nice surprise to know that the bear was safe and the young boy is sti ...more
Jul 06, 2015 Russell rated it liked it
Dark. And I don't mean Pokémon dark like, "You have no father, go out into the world and force animals to fight each other to settle conflicts. Don't make eye contact, or you'll get into a fight." I mean like Old Yeller dark. (view spoiler) ...more
Mixed emotions reading this - as an adult. Interested to see what the kids make of it. Do you shoot the bear? befriend the bear? capture it? put it in a small cage in the zoo? Nothing to do with what the bear wants - he just wants to be where the food is. It would certainly be edited differently now in 2010 to 1952 - but there's something about the compact language and sepia illustrations that are appealing still today.
Dec 24, 2010 Satia rated it did not like it
This book upset my personal sensibilities so my rating is highly subjective. Perhaps had I not grown up how I did, I'd feel differently, appreciating the illustrations enough to give it at least one more star. As it is, I cannot. For more:
Johnny has no idea what he is getting himself into when he brings a bear cub home. The bear eats his way through the neighbors' crops and storehouses and refuses to stay in the woods when Johnny tries to set him free. Lynd Ward finds a practical solution for the bear and Johnny, but I didn't care much for the ending. Caldecott winner.
Peter Patilla
Oct 19, 2014 Peter Patilla rated it really liked it
This book turned into quite a thought provoking book to the children I read (work with), which I was pleased about. It kept them engaged, the illustrations are good and isn't a run-of-the-mill feel good book, where everyone skips away in the sunset happy.....

Got us all discussing what we would do differently, so for that reason it's worth a read, I feel.
Mar 05, 2015 Lauren rated it liked it
This book is about kindness, compassion, and responsibility, and how the three intersect in sometimes complicated ways. This book would probably not have been written today.
Dec 29, 2011 John rated it liked it
The poor bear. What an awful ending!

Caldecott Medal Book, 1953

Favorite illustration: page 19

Favorite line: Nothing stands out
Jul 08, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: jacob, ellie, mom
I loved this story. The style really reminded me of the Billy and Blaze books by C.W. Anderson.
Jan 29, 2017 SaraKat rated it it was ok
Shelves: juvenile
I'm sure it's good, but not to my personal taste. I thought for a moment that I made a huge mistake near the end, but I kept reading with my eyes mostly closed. :) The cage at the end certainly didn't make me feel better about anything.
Part of my "read award winners" quest. I feel that this would go over better with some people than others, these days. Liberal parents would probably freak out and rural conservative parents would probably love it.

I didn't feel too strongly one way or the other. It's clearly a product of its time, and it's also a good story.
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