Touching Spirit Bear (Japanese Edition) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-08-11 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"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 teenager except that Cole carried a violent rage. Peter Driscal
was a victim of Coles'. Peter had turned in Cole for breaking into the school and Peter sustained
one vicious attack from Cole. Cole beat Peter so badly for "ratting" on him that the doctors
questioned if Peter would ever be the same again. Cole Matthews needs to recognize that he
alone is responsible for his own behaviours and actions, but Cole blames everyone around him
for the incident. Cole's father beat him and both of Cole's parents were alcoholics. As an
alternative to a jail term, Cole is offered a chance to take responsibilty for his assault on Peter.
Cole wants to con everyone and thinks only of getting away with his crime by running away from
his place of banishment which was determined by the Justice Circle. He is taken to an Alaskan
island by a proud Tlingit Native named Garvey. Unfortunately, for Cole he meets up with a huge
white bear. Cole Matthews thinks he can take on the bear. Cole learns a grave lesson about taking responsibility, to deal with his anger, to respect nature and that in each action he takes he has an impact on the world.

Specific quotes from the text
"Cole warned Peter...'[You're] a dead man'... he said to the ninth grader" ( p. 7).
"Cole looked up. 'Leaving all ready?' ....Garvey walked thoughtfully around the overturned bed,
than headed back toward the door....I'm tired of being around someone who blames the world for
all his problems" (p. 23).
"As the feather moved from person to person, Cole kept glancing at Peter. The thin red-haired
boy stared at the floor. When it was his turn Peter mumbled, 'I'm Peter Driscal, and I'm hear
'cause I got beat up.' His speech was slow and halting....Cole studied Peter. Peter hadn't sounded
like this before....Besides, this wouldn't have happened if Peter had kept his mouth shut" (p. 40).

My questions, inferences, visual images, thoughts, reactions, feelings, opinions
I have always wondered about the Justice Sentencing Circle process. I often questioned if
it worked. The insight provided in Touching Spirit Bear is awesome. I learned that when it is
done correctly the Youth Justice alternative is beneficial to both the offender and victim. As a
result, it provides healing ultimately to the individuals, family, community, and wider society. I
am excited about the Justice Circle. In the past I was influenced by negative statements
surrounding the issue of youth just getting away from jail using the Justice Circle. I now see it in
a whole new light since reading Touching Spirit Bear.
Re-evaluating the story with reference to values, ideals, beliefs, and/or institutions of Aboriginal
Aboriginal people have a point when it comes to values, beliefs, and the justice institution,that often it is those foundations of basic human relations that get broken down when neglected. Either way the challenge to the justice system is to look at community issues with community
involvement. It makes sense that that is where the justice must occur as it is where we live.
Today I know that natural law can aid in healing. Each person is worthy of being given a chance
to dig deep into the center of themselves and make order to their sense of values, ideals and
beliefs. A person may in all appearances be hopeless by virtue of their actions. We need to look
beyond the characteristics or behaviour and honour the life of every individual.
My transformed thoughts: What is not written in the story but now I am thinking about...
It is a profound thought, that we need more of these justice circles in everything we do.
Justice Circles for Youth can be expanded to reach all areas of life. Acknowledging rather than
denying that the victim needs his abuser to heal is an amazing concept. I am proud and totally
wowed. This book can reach so many youth and families. The message is that it takes time to
form a "totem" hence a "person".
" said.

" It is a AWESOME BOOK please read. " said.

" 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 " said.

" I wasn’t very fond of Touching Spirit Bear. It kept changing what was happening and it was weird. This book was a young adult book. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. It had good description but it could have been better. We had to read the book for school and most of my friends didn’t like the book. " said.

"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 what’s important about life. Though extremely troubled, Cole represented the dangerously smart adolescent that can use logic and phoniness to suit his purposes, and more often than not those purposes were destructive and malicious. I am surprised that I was able to tolerate a book that was so “nature-ish” and abstract because I would usually roll my eyes to something like the animal fire dances, soaking, and the ancestor rock. In this context, however, I realized that such an extreme is what Cole needed to improve because he had exhausted every alternative.

I am conflicted about how I could teach this book. I think the lessons at its base are excellent ones: it’s never too late to change for the better, we need to right our wrongs for us to move forward in life, and believing in someone else the way someone once believed in you is a way to “pay it forward.” I wonder, though, how to make these lessons real to students. I think this book would be a great read for troublemakers or students with complicated safety or home life situations, but I’m not sure how I could suggest their own version of the island and Spirit Bear. I don’t think the book necessarily says that isolation in Alaska is the only way to heal, but for many students I plan on teaching, many of their family and friends will be members on the rough end of the criminal justice system. Circle justice won’t mean a whole lot to them. If they have issues they need to solve, they have to do it in a practical way that involves being with the people they’re always with and doing the same things they always do, which is the opposite of Cole’s experience.

This book captivated me as a reader, and I’m sure students would be captivated as well. With the exception of the Spirit Bear attack scene and the mouse consumption scene, which I found a little unnecessarily detailed, I would highly recommend this book for the classroom ass long as a teacher can find a way to make a real adaptation for real students.
" said.

" Review to follow. 3 and 1/2 stars " said.

" I loved this story and can't wait to share it with my students this year! I will also find my boys from last year who struggled to find something "good" to read and demand they read this! " said.

"This book was very slow at the start. It is about Cole Matthews, a juvenile delinquent, who smashes Peter’s head into the cement. He goes to court. They decided to give him to circle justice, a peace group. They send him to an island. There, Cole is mauled by the Spirit Bear, a mystical creature. Cole is rescued and flown to a Minneapolis hospital. After rehab, he is given a second shot at the island. This time he truly changes. He faces his problems head on and invites Peter to the island. Will the dispute be solved? You will have to read to find out! This story was okay. The storyline was well developed but was not too action packed. I would not have finished if it wasn’t a class book. I recommend this to any adult readers that love survival stories!" said.

August 2019 New Book:

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