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Mikaelsen, Ben. Touching Spirit Bear.

MIKAELSEN, Ben. Touching Spirit Bear. HarperTrophy. 287p. c2001. 0-06-073400-0. $5.99. JS*

To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2001 : At age 15, Cole has already been in and out of police stations, detention centers, and residential treatment centers, but now his violent temper has gotten him into really serious trouble--he's been arrested for smashing a classmate's head to the sidewalk so hard that the boy has suffered permanent damage. The courts are trying to decide what to do with Cole when his youth probation officer, a Tungit Indian named Garvey, suggests Circle Justice. This is a new trial program, a healing contract agreed to by a committee including the victim and his parents, lawyers, and concerned citizens. In Cole's case, they decide that a year alone on a remote Alaskan island would better serve justice than jail would, and so Cole is banished, left with supplies to survive alone in the wilderness.

At first Cole tries to escape, and then he attacks a giant white bear, a Spirit Bear, that infuriates him by not showing any fear. The bear mauls Cole badly, and he is eventually rescued. Physical healing takes six months, but the experience has changed Cole, and he is eager to go back to the island and make the most of the opportunity he has been given. He learns from his surroundings, and gradually understands that part of healing is reaching out to help others--in this case, his victim, who reluctantly comes to the island and eventually reconciles with Cole.

Not entirely realistic, perhaps, but there's lots of exciting outdoor adventure here, in the style of Gary Paulsen and Will Hobbs. The first half of the book is especially riveting. But Cole's transformation from juvenile delinquent to respectful observer of nature in the second half will interest readers too, and the Native American Circle Justice concept, which is now being tried in some U.S. judicial systems, is intriguing. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) Paula Rohrlick, KLIATT

J--Recommended for junior high school students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.

S--Recommended for senior high school students.

*--The asterisk highlights exceptional books.
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Author:Rohrlick, Paula
Publication:Kliatt
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:363
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