I heard about this book from one of my favourite shows on CBC Radio – The Next Chapter. Shelagh Rogers was interviewing author Claire Cameron on writing the book and I was hooked. The Bear is based on real events in Algonquin Park when a couple out camping were killed and eaten by a bear. As Cameron says, she added the kids.
Anna, the 5-year-old protagonist, and her brother Alex, whom she calls “Stick” are hidden by their father inside of Coleman (those huge, old coolers that which Cameron tested to make sure was big enough for two small children). When they escape the attack, their mother begs Anna to save her and her brother by paddling out in a canoe. She lures her stubborn 2-year-old brother into the boat with cookies.
This book is unique in many ways, one of the most striking being that it is told using Anna’s voice and language. Cameron painstakingly recreates the language of an ingenious five-year-old in a way which is completely compelling and endearing. She also brilliantly writes the complex sibling relationship from utter frustration to heart-wrenching love.
I could not get Anna and Alex out of my mind. While the subject matter is gruesome and desperate, Anna’s determination and childish imaginings kept me from freaking out. The characters are utterly believable and I couldn’t help imagining my own daughter and son in this situation. The ending is beautiful and true. I loved the grandfather.