What's the Name of That Book??? discussion

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UNSOLVED: One specific book > Child book - Bear cub sheds skin to become human but after his skin is destroyed must remain human

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message 1: by Laura (new)

Laura Smyth | 2 comments This was a book I read when I was little from the primary school library. The plot centered on a brown bear cub who lived with his sister and his mother. Bears have a trick whereby they can remove their skin and underneath are human. However in human form they must not eat otherwise will become trapped as humans forever, unable to put their skins back on. The boy cub and his sister decide to sneak into the local village at night to explore as humans. However I think they startle a cat (?) and the villagers chase after them. His mother comes to protect them but is shot and only his sister escapes. He is taken back to the village (they assume he is an orphan) but refuses to eat. The village elder senses he is different and tells them to let him go back to the woods/helps him sneak away. In the forest he thinks he finds a trail of honeycomb which he assumes his sister had left to show him where she hid his pelt however this turns out to be his skin ripped apart by the dogs. This means he has to remain human as can never be a bear again. He lives with a woman I think and has to learn how to be human.

I can't remember much in the middle but it ends with him finding his sister all grown up. Her coat is a golden colour because the cave she was in contained something that dyed her fur. She was very proud of her distinct coat. He continues to visit her and she eventually has cubs which he also visits (I'm not sure whether their fur was golden as well). It wasn't exactly a happy ending but he was pleased to find his family again even if he could never return to being a bear. Bittersweet sort of tone.

I can't remember the name of the book or author. I read it in the early 2000s though the cover was quite tattered so i suspect it was published much earlier than this. I think I only read it once or twice but the story (especially the realization 'honey comb trail' was actually his coat and his sister being proud of her uniquely coloured fur) really stuck. Any help finding this book would be much appreciated as am beginning to think I dreamed the whole thing up!


message 2: by Tab (new)

Tab (tabbrown) | 5013 comments Anything about the cover? Any illustrations in the book?
Part of a series?
Time period/location story takes place?
What country were you in when you read this? Language?


message 3: by Laura (new)

Laura Smyth | 2 comments I think the cover was brown though not 100% sure, earthy colour anyhow may have shown a forest but really couldn't say. And I can't distinctly remember any illustrations at best there may have been small sketches at the start of each chapter though may be confusing another book.

Time and location wise I don't think it was anywhere specific. I don't think there was anything electricity based and the gender roles were somewhat traditional I think. If I remember right they put his mothers head up in the town hall or pub. Buildings were stone, brick or wood. They had a town elder who had large role in advising villagers. Definitely past rather then future at any rate. I'm not sure whether they had guns or were reliant on knives and arrows. It wasn't a medieval setting for sure, no knights or anything like that.

I think it was a one off book, not part of a series. I read it in England and the copy was also in English.


message 4: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 39296 comments Mod
Laura, are you still looking for this or did you find it?


message 5: by Becca (new)

Becca (beccalikesbooks) | 2696 comments I am bumping this one because I'd love to find it even if OP has forgotten about the thread. I've been searching but no luck so far.


message 7: by Becca (new)

Becca (beccalikesbooks) | 2696 comments Ayshe wrote: "The Boy Who Was a Bear maybe?"

I've been searching all morning and didn't come across this one! Great sleuthing.

I'm going to order a copy to satisfy my own curiosity and will update this thread to confirm whether or not it has the details that Laura remembers (the honeycomb trail and the sister bear's golden fur).


message 8: by Ayshe (new)

Ayshe | 4228 comments British/Australian books can be hard to find, it came up as result in amazon.co.uk advanced book search for "bear boy fantasy".


message 9: by Becca (new)

Becca (beccalikesbooks) | 2696 comments I now have a copy of The Boy Who Was A Bear and can confirm that the details all match what Laura remembers:

- If the bear people eat human food, they'll be stuck in human form forever.
- The brother and sister bear startle a cat near the beginning, which leads to them being chased by the villagers.
- The townspeople kill the mother bear and hang her skin up in the local bar.
- The boy finds his skin torn to pieces in the forest - 'At first, I thought that an old brown honeycomb had fallen out of a tree and broken apart on the ground and I would be able to feast! I even thought that Kamanda must have knocked it down and left it there for me. But it was not a honeycomb, it was my skin, in pieces, chewed up and slavered on by dogs and scattered on the forest floor.'
- Towards the end he finds his sister, Kamanda, and her fur is bright yellow because she's been living in sulphur caves. She is very proud of this.

Mods, can we move this to 'Solved' or 'Possibly Solved'? I'll also send Laura a message.


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