Eva Leger's Reviews > The Biggest Bear

The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward
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's review
Apr 08, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: julias-books, couldn-t-finish-yuck
Read on April 06, 2011

I'm not at comfortable with this sort of book. The only reason I read this with Julia after glancing through it myself was to point some things out and start a discussion.
I personally find this disgusting on a few levels, beginning with the first page which shows Johnny standing, hand in pocket and smiling, all of about 7-9 years old - holding a rifle. A few more pages in and we see a bunch of barns with bearskins tacked up to dry. Johnny's barn not having one is a source of humiliation for him. That a child that young should be concerned with something of this sort - in any time period - is topic for a conversation IMO.
Turn the page again and we see a handsome, strapping man. With a dead bear over his shoulder. He's waving and quite obviously proud of himself.
Another man is prided by the fact that he shot three bears in a row one night. The fear showing on the bears faces is an especially interesting observation and possibly tells me some about the author.
Johnny was also ashamed when his grandfather ran from a bear. As opposed to trying to kill the bear with his hands I assume. (This a great opportunity for talking with your kid(s) about feeling humiliated, what is "worth" feeling this way, etc.)
So, little Johnny goes off into the woods to prove his manhood. One could steer the conversation here along the path of parental supervision and the lack thereof, neglect, etc. if they so chose.
Our boy Johnny finds a bear cub and not only feeds said wild animal but takes him home. The "responsible" adults in the story allow this. Of course.
Then we get to the "cute" part. The cub getting into the milk and chicken feed, climbing trees and eating out of Johnny's hand.
Everyone gets more and more upset as the cub grows into a full grown bear and starts breaking things and messing things up. Finally, Johnny's father is told he must get rid of the bear. You know, the bear who has no earthly idea how to find food in the forest, how to protect himself, how to act properly around other animals and humans, etc. That bear.
Johnny leaves "his" bear in the woods and the bear, surprise surprise, follows him home. This happens a few times when little Johnny's oh-so-loving father decided - apparently with Johnny - to have Johnny murder the bear. While in the woods preparing to kill the bear the bear takes off after catching a scent. Johnny and the bear end up trapped - the bear smelled bait from the trap. The men were catching animals for the zoo and end up taking this bear with them. Best scenario for the bear following a story like this.
The Biggest Bear is a horrible, disgusting story that makes me shudder when I think about the ideas, quite possibly life-long ideas, that a child could get from this "story".
When I think of the small and sometimes tiny things that altered my way of thinking as a child this saddens me. It's "stories" like this that *almost* make me wish the book would be banned.
The only thing I'm happy about right now is the negative ratings and reviews. There are hundreds of worthy children's books in the world, old, new, about every subject, some that teach and some that don't, do we really want to read this to impressionable kids?

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